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State police combing through evidence in Schenectady custody death

State police combing through evidence in Schenectady custody death

Video, audio recordings part of probe
State police combing through evidence in Schenectady custody death
A Schenectady police car on Albany Street in May 2016.
Photographer: ERIN K. O'NEILL

State police investigators are working through interviews, video and audio evidence to determine exactly how a man in city police custody died last week, a state police official said Monday.

Medical officials have also completed the autopsy in the death of Andrew Kearse and are awaiting toxicology tests, state police Capt. Robert Patnaude said.

He declined to release any findings from Friday's autopsy until later in the investigation.

"We want to make sure we do a thorough investigation before committing ourselves to why and how this happened," Patnaude said.

RELATED: Foss: Why did man die in police custody?

Kearse, 36, of the Bronx, died in custody early Thursday evening after leading officers on a brief foot chase, city police said.

He complained of breathing problems and feeling dizzy en route to police headquarters and was unresponsive when officers arrived at the station. City police said they immediately called paramedics. Kearse died soon afterward at Ellis Hospital.

Susan Perry, who described Kearse as her boyfriend, was arrested along with Kearse and was taken separately to the station. She alleged Friday that police delayed summoning medical care for Kearse, believing he was faking.

City police quickly turned over the investigation into why and how Kearse died to the state police, an outside agency. Chief Eric Clifford has said the department is cooperating fully.

Police also notified the Schenectady County District Attorney's Office, who notified the state Attorney General's Office. The Attorney General's Office is giving additional oversight, police have said.

City police officers routinely wear microphones connected to their in-car cameras. In-car cameras also generally capture video and audio of the back seat of police cars during transports and the department also has multiple cameras and some microphones at the station.

Patnaude said Monday that state police investigators have access to multiple video and audio recordings related to the case. 

"We do have video from the cars and from some of the street cameras, too," Patnaude said.

There's video from outside the station, where officers bring suspects who have been arrested. At the station, Patnaude said, Kearse remained in the vicinity of the patrol car that brought him until paramedics arrived. There's some audio, as well, Patnaude said, though he wouldn't go into specifics.

State police investigators have also spoken with neighbors and several of the officers who were involved, Patnaude said.

Patnaude declined to say when they would have more on the investigation. He did not that toxicology tests normally take weeks to come back, but he expected to be able to release more information before then.

The incident began as city police went to stop Kearse for a traffic violation, city police said. Kearse turned into Peters' 157 Ward Ave. driveway and fled on foot. 

Police have not said why Kearse fled, but state inmate and parole records indicate he was released to parole from a grand larceny prison sentence last month, but was listed Friday in state parole records as "absconded."

Officers caught up with Kearse nearby and took him into custody. One neighbor reported Friday hearing a man believed to be Kearse yelling that officers were hurting him.

Kearse was the father of nine children, those who knew him say, and he was married to Angelique Negroni-Kearse, of the Bronx. Negroni-Kearse referred comment Monday to representatives of the National Action Network, a civil rights organization started by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

The family wants to know everything that led to Kearse's death, the Rev. Kevin McCall, of the National Action Network, said Monday.

"He didn't die on his own," McCall said. "He died because of something and we want to know what that something is."

The family is hoping to have a vigil for Kearse in the coming days in the Bronx.

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