A city man is alleging Schenectady police used excessive force by pepper-spraying and Tasering him after he was accused of jaywalking last week in Mont Pleasant.
The incident was partially captured on video by bystanders, and one of the videos viewed by the executive director of the local New York Civil Liberties Union had the official calling for an investigation, saying it appeared police escalated the incident.
That video shows the man walking away from an officer, who appears to then pepper-spray him. The man appears to try to keep walking as the officer struggles with him. Two more officers then arrive and the man is Tasered. A second video appears to show police Tasering him while he is sitting on the ground with his hands in the air.
City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen said his department hadn’t received a formal complaint regarding the incident, but, he said, “we’ll look at everything.”
The June 3 incident centered around 22-year-old Shaquille Parker of Forest Road. Parker was pepper-sprayed and Tasered just after 2:15 p.m. that day in front of a house on Main Avenue, just east of Crane Street.
He was formally charged with felony second-degree assault, misdemeanor resisting arrest and violation-level disorderly conduct and marijuana possession. The assault charge relates to allegations Sgt. Dean DeMartino suffered minor injuries in the ensuing struggle.
Parker was accused of crossing Crane Street while traffic had the green light, obstructing a bus and cars. Kilcullen said officers were in the area that day to respond to constant “nuisance activities,” including people impeding traffic.
He said he couldn’t comment on the incident in depth because the case is ongoing. He also said he hadn’t seen everything yet, but his department would look at it. Kilcullen did confirm he was in the area and pulled up to the scene as Parker was being handcuffed, as is seen in the videos.
Beyond two videos taken by members of the public that were viewed Tuesday by The Daily Gazette, there may be other video of the incident. There are two street surveillance cameras at the intersection and city police cars have in-car cameras. City police officers also routinely wear microphones.
It was unclear what other videos exist, but both Laurie Cummings, a prosecutor with the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office, and Stephen Signore, head of the Public Defender’s Office, said they were interested in all available video. Assistant Public Defender Heather Gray had at least one of the public videos Tuesday.
Parker told The Gazette the incident began when he crossed in front of the bus, which was stopped, because the driver motioned him to. Parker also said there were no cars coming.
He said he stopped for the officer and gave his identification when asked. The officer told Parker he had crossed against the signal. The officer then requested to search him, but Parker refused, Parker said. Paperwork filed in court suggested it was DeMartino who initially approached Parker.
Parker, who works at The Daily Gazette as a mailroom inserter, conceded he possessed violation-level marijuana, but officers did not know that at the time he was stopped.
He said the officer then demanded to search him, telling him to put his hands against a nearby wall. Parker responded by starting to walk up Main Avenue along the Trustco Bank building, toward his home on Forest Road.
The longest video of the incident available Tuesday picked up as Parker walked slowly past the bank and up Main Avenue, as the officer trailed behind. Parker said the officer told him to stop or he would be pepper-sprayed. The video shows that as Parker passed the end of the bank building, the officer reached his hand in front of Parker’s face. Parker said that was when he was sprayed.
Parker continues to walk and appears to briefly shove the officer. The officer then pulls on Parker’s shirt, trying to stop him from continuing to walk.
A truck passes, and Parker is then seen up against a home’s porch railing. Two other officers converge on the scene. It appears Parker is pepper-sprayed again there and officers try to pull Parker’s hands from the railing. One officer then uses a Taser, and Parker goes down.
A second video, provided by Parker’s mother, Tracy Coleman, picks up with Parker’s hands on the railing.
Parker was arrested and ordered held on $3,000 bail, which he could not meet. He remained in custody until Tuesday afternoon, when he was released on his own recognizance due to a rule requiring an indictment or a special hearing to hold someone charged with a felony longer. Neither was done, and he was released.
“It was definitely excessive, excessive, because, I mean, all I wanted to do was go home,” Parker said of the police response.
He spoke to The Gazette Tuesday evening after being released. Parker’s mother brought the incident to The Gazette newsroom’s attention.
“I was shocked, I was really shocked,” Coleman said of the videos, “because my son is a good boy.”
Parker lives with her, helping her care for her three grandchildren. Parker has no children of his own.
Shown the longest available video, Melanie Trimble, executive director of the local chapter of the NYCLU, said there didn’t appear to be any reason to physically engage Parker for what amounted to a ticket. Regarding Parker’s account that the officer wanted to search him after the jaywalking, Trimble said officers can only do that if they have probable cause to perform a search. Jaywalking alone would not provide that, she said.
Regardless, she said the NYCLU recommends people announce they don’t consent to the search and make it known, but she said individuals shouldn’t resist officers. The legal issues can be dealt with in court.
Trimble said the incident needs to be looked into, however.
“This ought to be fully investigated by the Police Department, and they ought to come clean to the public what the policies and procedures of the Police Department actually are,” she said.