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Spa police chief defends Mount investigation

Spa police chief defends Mount investigation

Veitch apologizes, but said officers did nothing wrong
Spa police chief defends Mount investigation
Saratoga Springs Police Department Chief Greg Veitch during a press conference July 2018.
Photographer: Erica Miller

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Saratoga Springs Police Chief Gregory Veitch on Friday defended himself against charges that he misled the public about the Police Department's investigation of the 2013 incident that led to the death of Darryl Mount Jr.

Veitch said he was attempting to protect the identity of a domestic violence victim -- Mount's girlfriend -- by misdirecting a reporter for the Saratogian newspaper. He told the reporter there was an internal investigation into how Mount suffered severe injuries during a police foot chase.

Responding to a report in the Times Union on Aug. 26, Veitch wrote a lengthy Facebook post Friday morning that said the department was conducting only a single investigation into the incident, and it could later have been classified as "internal."

Mount, then 21, ran from police at about 3 a.m. on Aug. 31, 2013, after police said they saw him shove a woman's head against a brick wall on Caroline Street. Mount fled into a construction site on the east side of Broadway, where police lost sight of him in the darkness. A few minutes later, he was found unconscious on the ground below scaffolding that was part of the construction project.

The severe head injuries Mount suffered ultimately contributed to his death from complications of pneumonia in May 2014. His family, who starting contending immediately after the chase that Mount was injured in a police beating, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city. The family called for an investigation by an outside agency, but none was never conducted. There were also public protests at the time.

In a deposition associated with that lawsuit, Veitch admitted the Police Department conducted no internal investigation based on the family's accusations, though he told the Saratogian reporter by email that there was an investigation. His statement in that deposition was much of the basis for the Times Union story.

Veitch, who was also chief in 2013, has defended police officers' conduct that night and continued to do so on Friday.

"I will offer to the public that, after five years now, there has not been one piece of evidence, not one witness that has come forward with anything that contradicts what the officers said occurred on the night in question," Veitch wrote in the Facebook post.

The revelations about Veitch's misstatement have prompted at least one city resident to call for creation of a civilian review board to handle complaints against police -- a suggestion city leaders have so far rejected.

Veitch said the city is in the middle of the lawsuit, limiting his ability to respond to any allegations against him.

He also apologized to the public, acknowledging that misleading a reporter seeking information about the case amounted to misleading the public.

"If I misled a reporter, and, as a consequence, the public, by giving this reporter a misdirection and thereby shutting down a reporter's request for information, in order to protect the victim and her identity, then I apologize to the public for causing a narrative that resulted in misleading them," Veitch said.

He said he and other members of the department remain willing to cooperate with an outside investigation, if one were ever to be conducted.

"I stand by the work that was done by members of the department and that the investigation was thorough and complete," Veitch wrote.

Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin, the elected City Council member who oversees the Police Department, did not respond Friday to a request for comment on Veitch's statement.

Mayor Meg Kelly refused to comment on Veitch's statement or the Mount investigation on Friday

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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