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Updated: Video Of Schenectady Police Arrest Sparks Protest, Investigation

Protesters gathered outside Schenectady Police headquarters Monday night hours after a video circulated online of what appears to be a police officer holding a man to the ground with his knee on the man’s neck. Now, the mayor says the incident is under review. 

An image capture of a video allegedly showing a Schenectady police officer kneeling on Yugeshwar Gaindarpersaud's neck on Monday. The video was captured by Gaindarpersaud's father, with a still image shared by group All of Us.

A month after Police Chief Eric Clifford took a knee in solidarity with protesters outside Schenectady police headquarters, one of his officers appeared to do the same on a city man’s neck. 

The incident involving 31-year-old Yugeshwar Gaindarpersaud, who is of Guyanese descent and also goes by Chris Persaud, and a white police officer was filmed by Gaindarpersaud’s father.

Within hours after a 23-second clip of the incident made the rounds on social media, protesters demanded justice downtown.

“I need justice.”

Gaindarpersaud, who speaks with an accent, showed scrapes on his forehead and knee after he said an officer pinned him to the ground for “eight to 10” minutes. He said he passed out and woke up in Ellis Hospital. He was still wearing the hospital bracelet outside police headquarters.

“I need our cops to be suspended for now or terminated.”

Gaindarpersaud said the officer questioned him about tires that were slashed in his neighborhood.

Gaindarpersaud said he asked the officer for video proof of the alleged tire-slashing incident. He then said he thanked the officer and turned away to walk into his backyard, where he was detained.

A statement from the Schenectady Police Department says Gaindarpersaud “fled on foot” into the backyard after the officer “reached out to detain” him. The statement says “a brief foot chase and struggle ensued during which the officer lost his radio and asked a nearby witness to call police.”

Additional officers reportedly then assisted the responding officer and placed Gaindarpersaud in handcuffs.

The incident comes a month after the city’s police chief’s response to a Black Lives Matter protest on the same sidewalk drew widespread acclaim. Chief Clifford kneeled and walked with protesters in the days following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis Police custody.

That was a powerful moment for Schenectady resident Vonda McGill.

“People hugged. I have another picture that there was a police officer and another gentleman that hugged each other, from the black community. And I mean, because not all cops are bad, not all people are bad, but putting your knee on someone can kill them, as we’ve seen many times before. It’s really sad. Know what I mean?”

McGill called the officer’s alleged actions “absolutely disgusting.”

City Councilor Marion Porterfield also attended the protest.

“Restraints that can cause people physical harm that can cause their death are not acceptable,” said Porterfield.

Porterfield said she had spoken with the mayor, police chief, and some rank-and-file members of the police force about the incident.

Mayor Gary McCarthy told WAMC he directed Chief Clifford to investigate. The Schenectady Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards is reviewing the incident.

On June 10th, McCarthy signed an Executive Order related to police actions including a ban on choke and knee-to-neck holds.

All of Us, a community group that helped organize Monday’s protest, is calling for further action with a 13-point list of demands. The group is calling on community members to stage another protest at city hall next Monday.

All of Us’s Legacy Casanova asks: what if?

“What if this wasn’t caught on camera? What if this was another George Floyd incident; it would be devastating. So once situations like this happen, we have to automatically be a part of the movement and make a protest so people know what’s going on in our area,” said Casanova.

The Monday evening protest ended without incident.

The statement from the Schenectady Police Department is posted below: 

Brandywine Ave. Incident

At approximately 9:38 am an officer from the Schenectady Police Department was dispatched to the area of 332 Brandywine Ave for a report of a vehicle that had its tires slashed. Once on scene, the officer made contact with the complainant who stated that there has been an ongoing neighbor issue and that a male neighbor had damaged tires on his vehicle. Additionally, the complainant stated to the officer that he had video surveillance of the incident.

The officer made contact with the male suspect and began to interview him in regards to the slashed tires. During the interview, the officer decided to detain the male for further investigation. As the officer reached out to detain the male, he pulled away from the officer and fled on foot into the backyard of his residence. A brief foot chase and struggle ensured during which the officer lost his radio and asked a nearby witness to call police.

Additional responding officers arrived on scene and were able to assist the original officer and ultimately place the male into handcuffs.

The Department has been made aware of a video circulating on social media partially depicting the incident. The incident in its entirety is currently being reviewed by the Schenectady Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards. We ask that anyone who witnessed the incident or has video footage to contact the Office of Professional Standards.

The Schenectady Police Department is committed to fair, impartial, and transparent investigations. As soon as the investigation has concluded or more information can be released in regards to the incident, it will be made available.
There is no further information available at this time.

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