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Family files notice of claim in Schenectady police custody death

Family files notice of claim in Schenectady police custody death

Action preserves right to sue
Family files notice of claim in Schenectady police custody death
A Schenectady police car on Albany Street in May 2016.
Photographer: ERIN K. O'NEILL

SCHENECTADY — City police failed to respond properly to Andrew Kearse's complaints of medical distress in May, leading to his death in police custody, his family alleges in a notice of claim filed against the city.

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The claim is a precursor to a potential lawsuit. Filed earlier this month, it seeks damages of $25 million.

Kearse, 36, of the Bronx, died in custody early on the evening of May 11 after he led 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.

"Despite Mr. Kearse's repeated and numerous complaints of difficulty breathing and dizziness the members of the Schenectady City Police Department recklessly, negligently and carelessly deprived him of any and all medical attention," the notice reads.

Kearse's death remains the subject of a state attorney general investigation into what happened.

The investigation is expected to look at the entire incident, from the initial traffic stop to the chase, arrest, transport and response to Kearse's medical issues.

The notice of claim filed by Kearse's family focuses on the transport and response to Kearse's complaints of medical distress. 

Attorneys involved in the case indicated that depending on what the attorney general finds, additional claims could be added. The notice includes a host of basic claims, from wrongful death, to assault, battery and negligent training and supervision.

"This tragedy remains under investigation by the Attorney General's Office with regard to the issue of criminality ... The family awaits the results of the investigation," the family's New York City attorney Sanford Rubenstein said Wednesday. Rubenstein is working the case with Schenectady-based attorney Cory Dalmata.

City Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico declined to comment on the case Wednesday.

An attorney representing the officers involved in the case has said the officers did everything by the book and acted appropriately.

The claim's allegations of a delayed response were backed up by a woman arrested along with Kearse, Susan Perry. Taken separately to the station, Perry has alleged that police delayed summoning medical care for Kearse because they believed he was faking.

Under a list of damages and injuries, the claim cites "severe physical injuries and pain and suffering leading to death." It also cites "cardiac arrhythemia," also known as a heart attack.

Medical officials performed an autopsy on Kearse, but police have not released any findings.

City police quickly turned over the investigation into Kearse's death to the state police. City Police Chief Eric Clifford has said the department is cooperating fully.

The Attorney General's Office took on the case based on the governor's executive order that allows the AG to investigate deaths of unarmed suspects in confrontations with police.

State police officials have said that investigators have access to multiple video and audio recordings related to the case from patrol cars, street cameras and from the station. 

City officers do not have body cameras and it is unclear if microphones they wear captured audio of the chase. Investigators, however, do have some audio.

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

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

Officers caught up with Kearse nearby and took him into custody. One neighbor reported 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 was married to Angelique Negroni-Kearse of the Bronx. 

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