NYS AG's Office Will Not Investigate New Rochelle Officer-Involved Shooting
As WAMC News first reported today, the New York state attorney general’s office will not investigate an officer-involved shooting in New Rochelle, New York. The city’s mayor had been calling for such an investigation. Meantime, the New Rochelle police union is standing by the unnamed officer who fatally shot the African-American man on Friday.
Word of the state attorney general office’s decision to pass on investigating came Monday afternoon. Democratic New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson had requested the state investigate the incident. He was unable to respond to a request for comment on the state AG’s decision in time for this broadcast. Meantime, Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino says his office’s investigation is continuing. He has called upon the New Rochelle police to release any video of the shooting to the public.
“I’m referring to the videos that we have been able to get our hands on as of today, but we believe there’s a possibility of additional videos coming, being brought to our attention, and we would ask that those be released upon when we get them. But it’s important that, they are very grainy and efforts to enhance them are important to assist in evaluating what events took place,” says Scarpino. “In addition, I have asked for the state police to step in as the lead investigators in the case rather than the New Rochelle Police Department.”
The videos are from nearby businesses. Bramson says city police do not wear body cameras, which he hopes soon changes, and there aren’t any dash cams in unmarked vehicles. Bramson says someone from apartment complex Heritage Homes called police on Wednesday to report a suspicious vehicle with tinted windows and Virginia license plates coming and going. New Rochelle Police Commissioner Joseph Schaller answered some questions during Saturday’s press conference.
“Some of the officers on patrol last night spotted what appeared to be the vehicle that committed several vehicle and traffic violations so they stopped it, they pulled it over and, at that point, the passenger exited the vehicle fled down Pier Street, across Potter and onto Sharott Street,” says Schaller.
The passenger was 24-year-old Kamal Flowers. Mayor Bramson:
“As the chase proceeded, the officer became aware, in his perception, that Mr. Flowers had a gun,” says Bramson. “The officer discharged his Taser. The Taser was ineffective, and the officer subsequently fired six shots, one of which hit Mr. Flowers through the armpit and penetrated his heart.”
“There is no prior record that would justify an event of this kind. The only thing that could explain it would be an officer’s true perception that their life and safety was in immediate risk,” Bramson says. “And, indeed, the officer was in no position to know whether Mr. Flowers had a prior record.”
On Sunday, the New Rochelle Police Benevolent Association issued a statement saying it stands behind the police officer who fatally shot Flowers. It also disagrees with Bramson and says Flowers’ criminal background is relevant. “His extensive criminal history explains why he was apparently willing to pay any price to escape apprehension, including the life of a police officer.” The statement also describes Flowers as a felon in possession of an illegal weapon in contravention of his parole conditions as well as state and federal law.
Again, Mayor Bramson:
“It has been seven years since any New Rochelle police officer discharged a weapon in any setting whatsoever,” says Bramson. “And our officers are trained to deescalate violence precisely to avoid tragedies of this kind.”
He says the shooting did not occur in a vacuum.
“We are aware that this a momen when issues of police violence and systemic racism and racial justice are front and center for many residents of our own city and front and center for many Americans,” Bramson says.
The New Rochelle PBA says it was among the first police organizations to condemn the officers allegedly responsible for the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and that it has no tolerance for unnecessary use of force against any citizens.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey had asked New York to pursue a state investigation as did fellow Democrat Congressman Eliot Engel, who represents New Rochelle.