ALBANY — Tensions over police brutality continued to flare in the Capital Region Wednesday, fanned by the release of video footage of a couple verbally sparring with Albany city police officers who forced them out of their vehicle and pinned them to the ground before arresting them Tuesday.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan called the footage “troubling,” and said charges against the pair will be dropped and an internal investigation launched.
Sheehan praised city police for their response to the periodic spasms of unrest, but said “the treatment I witnessed in that video falls short of the standards I expect of our Police Department.”
“The footage does not appear to depict efforts by police to de-escalate a situation, nor does it depict the sensitivity I expect from all city employees in this moment and every day,” Sheehan said in a released statement.
Protests continued across the country Wednesday as Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison upgraded Derek Chauvin’s charges, the Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck, to second-degree murder and announced that the three other former officers present at George Floyd’s death — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng — will be charged with aiding and abetting murder.
Demonstrators in Albany, where protests continued throughout Wednesday, cheered when told about the arrests, according to footage posted by an Albany Times Union reporter on Twitter.
The video Sheehan called troubling was filmed Tuesday and released on social media. It depicted tensions escalating as Albany police shouted at Kimani Addison, who was filming another arrest taking place off-camera near the corner of Arch and South Pearl streets, aggressively telling him to back up.
Addison complied, but was told by the unidentified officer to keep moving back, and did so until he reached his vehicle, which was occupied by his partner, Desiree Shuman, who posted the video on Facebook.
“I’m asking you to back up,” said the maroon shirt-clad officer, approaching the man until he appeared to be backed up against his car.
Shuman’s post with the accompanying video:
“I don’t need to back up any more. How far do you want me to go?” said Addison as Shuman repeatedly told the officer that it was their vehicle.
More officers approached as Addison grew frustrated with their interrogation.
“Swear again, see what happens,” said the officer before walking away.
“Bye, bye. Bye, bye,” Addison said before moving to the driver’s side. “Dumbass,” he said as officers turned the corner, one of them waving.
But a half-dozen officers quickly approached and told him to get out of the car before again retreating.
One shook a pair of handcuffs at Shuman as she said they were expressing their freedom of speech.
“Stop running your mouth,” said the officer in the maroon shirt.
Another accused Addison of inciting a riot and grabbed him before the video abruptly cut out.
A second video shot from a bystander’s perspective shows officers grabbing Addison, wrestling him down, pinning him to the ground and placing him in handcuffs.
Shuman was also placed on her stomach and handcuffed.
“You want to kill us,” she said before officers led the pair away.
The second video:
Addison told Spectrum News he stopped at a corner store on his way home from work when he witnessed an arrest and began filming because he wanted to ensure the man’s rights weren’t being violated.
Officers, Addison said, were being deliberately provocative.
“I was punched rapidly a few times in the head,” Addison told Spectrum. “Actually, I was kneed in the neck and Tased when I was on the ground.”
During the incident, victims of police brutality raced through his head.
“They brutalize our citizens,” he said in the interview. “They kill us, they murder us.”
Shuman suffered a fractured arm and appeared with Addison at Wednesday’s protest.
“It’s sad Albany police are supposed to be here to protect not HARM,” Shuman wrote on Facebook.
Another angle posted to Facebook as a Facebook Live:
Addison also criticized Sheehan and City Council members for not reaching out to him. Dropping the charges isn’t enough, he said, and the officers involved should be charged.
And while city police officers taking a knee sets the right tone, he said, broader reforms are needed.
The incident is also being referred to the Office of Professional Standards.
“I ask the community to continue working with the Police Department in strengthening relations,” Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins said in a prepared statement. Hawkins has come under criticism for not being in the city on Saturday as peaceful protests morphed into overnight violence and what authorities characterized as a riot at South Station as demonstrators pelted police with bricks, rocks and incendiary objects.
A number of the Common Council members are set to hold a press conference at Albany City Hall at 3 p.m. Thursday calling for police reforms.
In a release, the council members stated: “African Americans, Latinos and communities of color have expressed their frustration, pain and their call for meaningful policing reforms. We have heard them as leaders of our communities and are determined to work to implement long overdue reforms at the state and local levels.”
It’s unclear how many lawmakers of the 15-member body have signed onto the effort.
In a Twitter post, Albany Common Council member Richard Conti called the video “disturbing” and agreed with Sheehan’s response.
“Any review, as well as conclusions, needs to be transparent and open to be credible,” Conti said.
Protests also took place Wednesday in Saratoga Springs, where city police Lt. Sean Briscoe took a knee on the sidewalk alongside organizer Monique Bennifield and fellow organizers before the four joined in an embrace.
“Today, our voices need to be heard,” said Bennifield, of Greenfield. “I will not be scared to voice my opinion to this town.”
With the situation largely improved in New York City overnight Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo walked back comments criticizing the New York Police Department, praising them for controlling the situation.
“The police officers had the resources and the capacity to do their jobs,” Cuomo said Wednesday in Albany. “The results last night were much, much different than the night before, and that’s what it’s all about. I think the people in New York City should feel much better today than they did after the night of looting.”
Cuomo also offered a rebuke to President Donald Trump, countering Monday’s scene of the president walking to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington D.C. and holding a Bible after police used tear gas to clear peaceful protesters. Instead, Cuomo opened Tuesday’s briefing by quoting several Bible passages he felt were appropriate in the current climate.
The African American Cultural Center of the Capital Region in Albany said someone broke into their center late Tuesday in what they characterized as an organized effort perpetuated by “outside actors with a specific focus.”
An inspection revealed culprits broke in after picking the lock and cased the building before suspects broke into their offices and stole various items, according to the center.
The culprits also wrote ‘I hit you’ on outside doors.
“Eyewitnesses saw a white male throwing bricks that had been pre-assembled in a vacant lot across from our building next to a makeshift hiding spot,” said the center.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy announced Wednesday that first responders and those who attended the rallies and protests can get a free walk-up coronavirus test Thursday at the Capital South Campus at 20 Warren St.
Testing will be available from 1:30 to 4 p.m. and no appointment is needed.
Those with insurance are asked to bring ID and proof of insurance. The test is free for those without insurance.
In Gloversville, city Police Chief Anthony Clay and Johnstown Police Chief David Gilbo issued a joint statement Wednesday commending the peaceful, silent protests that took place Monday in Johnstown and Tuesday in Gloversville.
Gazette reporter Steven Cook and photographer Erica Miller contributed to this report