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March held for man who died in Schenectady police custody

March held for man who died in Schenectady police custody

Andrew Kearse's wife wants answers
March held for man who died in Schenectady police custody
Angelique Kearse speaks in the lobby of the Schenectady police headquarters on Saturday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY — More than 100 people marched through the streets of downtown Schenectady Saturday night to raise awareness about the death of Andrew Kearse. 

Kearse, 36, of the Bronx, died on May 11 after he led police officers on a brief foot chase after a traffic violation stop. 

While in custody, Kearse 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 and 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.

Kearse's widow, Angelique Negroni-Kearse, came up to Schenectady from the Bronx on Saturday for the march, which began at First United Methodist Church on State Street. 

"I'm here seeking justice for him," she told the crowd. 

Negroni-Kearse said officers should have called the ambulance when her husband told them he couldn't breathe. 

"The officer said to him, 'Well you should've not ran then,'" she said. "[Kearse] told the officer he felt like throwing up and the officer said, 'Don't throw up in my car.'

"He begged for his life over 100 times and the officer denied him the medical attention he needed."

In November, Kearse's family filed a notice of claim against the city for failing to properly respond to his complaints of medical distress. 

Black Lives Matter of Greater New York arranged transportation to bring Negroni-Kearse and Kearse's supporters from New York City to the march.

Hawk Newsome, of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, said, "Blood is on the hands of Schenectady and they need to do right and release this tape and fire this officer and bring justice to Andrew Kearse." 

The event was also organized by local activists Citizen Action of New York-Capital District Chapter.

Jamaica Miles, lead organizer, said she wants data released by the Police Department in every situation where force was used in addition to a review of current procedures and anti-bias training for all police personnel. 

"I believe every single life is worth living," she said. "Anytime there's neglegence of letting that life persist can't go unanswered."

Miles added that she wants the Police Department to start requiring officers to live in the cities in which they work. 

"If our mayor and City Council have to live here, why don't police?" she said. "Police have a relationship with residents too." 

Rev. Sara Baron of First United Methodist Church said her immediate hope after the march is for answers to be provided to Kearse's family.

"They haven't been getting the answers and it's time to put the pressure on," she said. 

Baron added, "The real hope would be that all people can receive protection from police regardless of color, income and mental state."

A group of Union College students were in attendance at Saturday's march, including representatives from Campus Action and Black Student Union. 

Taylor Allen, a senior and vice president of multi-cultural affairs for Union College's student government, said college students are residents of the community. 

"It's important to be involved in the local community, because we live here too," she said. "Also, as a black student, it's important to know this community is a safe place."

Allen said she wants more accountability for the Schenectady Police Department. 

"I hope there's an open discussion between residents and the police," she said. "It's been requested for some time and there's no better time than now." 

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