New York police official suspended after handcuffing Black EMT worker who bumped his car unloading patient — NBC News
The EMT said she is suffering from "mental and physical difficulty" after the incident in Rochester.
New York police official suspended after handcuffing Black EMT worker who bumped his car unloading patient
A Rochester, New York, police investigator has been suspended after he was caught on video earlier this month handcuffing a Black EMT worker after she bumped his vehicle in a hospital ambulance bay while unloading a patient.
Witnesses told NBC affiliate WHEC of Rochester that after the EMT from Monroe Ambulance accidentally bumped the investigator's car, he asked for her identification.
The EMT, Lekia Smith, insisted on getting her patient inside the hospital first.
Once Smith unloaded the stretcher, she began to check the patient in, video obtained by WHEC shows. At the check-in desk, the investigator pulled the EMT's arms behind her back and handcuffed her, then dragged her to his police car.
A statement from the Rochester Police Department said that pending an internal investigation into the July 11 incident, the investigator involved has been placed on paid leave.
The investigator, who has not been identified, was originally placed on administrative assignment.
“I have high expectations for all members of the Rochester Police Department. Obviously, this incident is deeply concerning to me," Rochester Police Chief David Smith said in the earlier statement.
The Locust Club, the union that represents Rochester police, called the suspension "perplexing."
"The incident in question reached a mutually acceptable resolution that day when both the investigator and the EMT were able to jointly discuss the reasons for their actions, and both accepted each other’s explanations," the union said in a Monday statement.
Smith's attorney, Donald Thompson, who will represent Smith in her lawsuit against the city of Rochester, responded to the Locust Club's statement by saying: "The boldness of that lie is jaw-dropping."
Smith "was handcuffed while attempting to care for her patient, forcefully led to a police car and placed, still handcuffed in the locked back seat area of the car, at which time the investigator got into the backseat with her and proceeded to lecture her about why he was right, she was in the wrong, and his (over the top) response was necessary as a result of her actions," Thompson told NBC News.
“They never came to any agreement about any of this. Any statement to the contrary is unequivocally and intentionally false,” Thompson said.
He said the incident stemmed from the investigator throwing "a temper tantrum," his "misplaced sense of entitlement" and "maybe also a little defensiveness because he should never have been parked in the ambulance bay in the first place, and he certainly knew it."
A statement from Save Rochester — Black Lives Matter also called the Locust Club's explanation of what happened was "egregiously misleading and wholly treacherous."
"Save Rochester maintains that this incident is is a testament to the damaged relationship between police officers and people of color," the statement said.
Smith, in the statement released by Save Rochester, thanked supporters and said she was "glad that God allowed me to still be here to speak my truth, unlike those who have come before me."
Smith said she was suffering from "mental and physical difficulty."
"Once I am feeling better, I just want my life to go back to normal and continue on in my career as an EMT," Smith said. "I pray that this never happens to anyone again and I also pray that the justice that is needed in this situation is served swiftly."
Last year, officers with the Rochester Police Department pepper sprayed a 9-year-old Black girl and in a separate incident, pepper sprayed a mother holding a child.
The confrontations come less than a year after Daniel Prude, 41, died while being restrained by Rochester police with a “spit hood” over his head. Prude, a Black man, lost consciousness and died after being pinned, naked, to the street by officers responding to a mental health call.
A federal lawsuit filed last year accused Rochester officials of allowing a culture of police brutality against racial minorities to fester and asked a court to force reforms.
The civil rights lawsuit was filed on behalf of potentially “hundreds, if not thousands” of people it claims have been victimized by officers over the last three years, including while protesting in the wake of Prude's death.
The suit describes a pattern of “deliberate indifference” by officials going back more than 40 years.