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What you need to know for 02/25/2018

Vigil, march set for man who died in Schenectady police custody

Vigil, march set for man who died in Schenectady police custody

His widow says she was shown video, audio of May chase, transport to station
Vigil, march set for man who died in Schenectady police custody
Andrew Kearse and his wife, Angelique Negroni-Kearse.
Photographer: Provided

SCHENECTADY — Friends and supporters of Andrew Kearse, who died in city police custody last year, are planning a vigil and march on Saturday to keep focus on the case.

Kearse, 36, of the Bronx, died early on the evening of May 11 after he led officers on a brief foot chase.

He complained of breathing problems and feeling dizzy as he was being driven to police headquarters, and he was unresponsive when officers arrived at the station. City police said they immediately called paramedics.

The state Attorney General's Office is investigating the case.

Saturday's vigil and march will start at 4:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Schenectady. It is being organized by local activists Citizen Action of New York-Capital District Chapter, and activists from Kearse's neighborhood in New York City.

Bus transportation is being organized by Black Lives Matter of Greater New York to bring Kearse supporters from the city, including his widow, Angelique Negroni-Kearse.

"We feel like the American people need to know what happened to Andrew Kearse," said Hawk Newsome, of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York. "The city of Schenectady needs to know what happened to Andrew Kearse."

The attorney general took over the investigation in June. A spokeswoman confirmed on Monday that the investigation continues, but she would not comment further.

Officials with the Attorney General's Office met last month with Negroni-Kearse and the family's New York City attorney, Sanford Rubenstein. 

Rubenstein said on Monday that the attorney general's representatives indicated they would notify the family ahead of any decision. Rubenstein would not comment further, other than to say a lawsuit is expected in the coming weeks, after a required hearing later this month.

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

The family filed a notice of claim, the precursor to a lawsuit, in the fall, which alleged officers ignored "repeated and numerous" complaints by Kearse that he was having trouble breathing and was dizzy.

In an interview, Negroni-Kearse said the Attorney General's Office also showed her video and audio of her husband's final minutes, both from the foot chase and the in-car video and audio of his transport to the station, including the minutes after they arrived.

The officers involved, including the officer who transported Kearse, didn't call for medical assistance until after Kearse arrived, unresponsive, at the station.

"It was the worst thing I've seen in my life," Negroni-Kearse said.

State police officials have said previously that investigators have access to multiple video and audio recordings related to the case from patrol cars, street cameras and at the station. City officers do not have body cameras.

Negroni-Kearse said she wants to speak with the officer who transported Kearse. That officer has not been named by the department.

"I want to ask him how he could do that to Andrew," she said.

Kearse was the father of nine children. He was in Schenectady that day visiting a friend, his wife said.

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.

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

The notice of claim filed by Kearse's family focused 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 filed. The notice includes a host of basic claims, from wrongful death, to assault, battery and negligent training and supervision.

The family'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 cited "cardiac arrhythmia," a heart attack.

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

City police 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 attorney general to investigate deaths of unarmed suspects resulting from confrontations with police.

Among the local clergy who have helped organize Saturday's event is Rabbi Matt Cutler.

Cutler said he's sure that answers will be forthcoming, but the answers as to what happened need to be public and known.

"There are lots of unanswered questions that the family has, and we want to make sure [those are answered] in order to be a better, stronger community," Cutler said.

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