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Protesters Make Demands At Troy City Council Meeting Over Police Shooting

Messiah Cooper speaks to the Troy City Council on September 5th, 2019
Lucas Willard
Messiah Cooper speaks to the Troy City Council on September 5th, 2019

Outrage is building in the City of Troy weeks after a newspaper report unveiled new details on the city’s handling of a fatal police-civilian shooting in April 2016.

“No justice, no peace!”

Protesters gathered outside Troy City Hall Thursday evening. Outcry continues after it was revealedlast month in a Times Union report that city leaders did not act after an internal investigation into the shooting of a driver by a city officer three years ago.

Edson Thevenin was killed by Troy Police Sergeant Randall French, after Thevenin tried to flee a traffic stop.

The internal police report claimed French lied about the details of the encounter and was unjustified in using deadly force.

A grand jury cleared French of any wrongdoing before the New York State Attorney General’s office could launch an investigation into the fatal shooting. Then-District Attorney Joel Abelove has been accused of fast-tracking the case to the grand jury.

The administration of Mayor Patrick Madden gathered its own memo on the case, completed by the former Glenville police chief, which was reportedly kept secret, according to the newspaper. City councilors began the process of reviewing the memo this week behind closed doors.

That led to Thursday’s protest, where emotional city residents confronted leaders during the city council meeting.

Messiah Cooper addressed the council, speaking about Mayor Madden and the city’s former police chief, John Tedesco. 

“We want to know, what did you uncover? And if in fact you saw what we know is the truth, we want to know the next step. Is anyone going to be held accountable for their actions? Starting with the mayor, the chief of police – Tedesco, and all who was complicit in covering up the murder. That’s what we want,” said Cooper.

The residents presented a list of demands to the council, read by Daniel Morrissey:

“Mayor Madden, end the cover-up, release the taxpayer-funded report, resign, and withdraw from the election.

“The Troy Police Department, fire Randall French, end the cover-up, and drastically change your procedures.

“Rensselaer County District Attorney Donnelly, prosecute those responsible for the cover-up, reopen all cases where French’s testimony was crucial, and rehash all of it.

“Troy City Council, this is you, investigate the cover-up. Listen to these words: Investigate the cover-up. Establish a civilian police review board with community representation and subpoena power. Do all that is in your power to do those things. And we will help you find the future that we all need together. Thank you.”

City council member TJ Kennedy responded to the group’s demand that the city re-implement a police review board. Resident Anastasia Robertson responded:

“If anyone wants to submit names for the police review board, we’ll accept them,” said Kennedy. “If you guys want to put policies in place that the police review board can work towards because it will be in place…”

“There’s only one problem with that,” said Robertson. “I’m not trying to be rude, there’s only one problem with that. The mayor has the final say on who sits on this police review board. I think that needs to be taken out of his hands considering how complicit how he is in all the things that are going on in this city.”

Some protesters shared graphic stories of their own interactions with city police, illustrating the divide between what they called “two Troys.”

“There is something wrong. And it ain’t the law. It’s the people.  It’s the heart of the matter, and it’s the head of everything. And if you don’t fix it, you’re going to have a problem. Not only will we not re-elect you, and don’t think that we will sit back and let this ride, we will make sure that you are disrupted, interrupted at everything that you do. Because if I hear there’s a meeting, I’m showing up,” said Robertson.

Asked about the memo reviewed by some city councilors this week in executive session, City Council Public Safety Chair David Bissember said the memo could not be reviewed in public because it is an ongoing case.

“I hope that when the case is settled, the report does become public.”

Bissember, who called the Thevenin case a tragedy, said the city council will work to implement more police body cameras and establish a police review board.

“We as a council have been working to make sure that we work on those issues of transparency and accountability. I think it’s important to listen to community members when they’re bringing these issues up.”

Mayor Madden’s spokesman John Salka said in an email the mayor was unavailable due to a family matter. Salka said:

“The administration believes the fairest resolution of this matter is in a courtroom and will abide by the established legal process to ensure a fair hearing of the facts. We look forward to bringing this matter to a close, and due to ongoing litigation have no additional comment at this time.”

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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