Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It

On May 11, Susan Perry, 38, and her friend Andrew Kearse were arrested by Schenectady Police Department in upstate New York after trying to pull the couple over for a traffic violation. Its unclear why Kearse and Perry ran out of their car, but Kearse, a Bronx native, was recently released on parole after serving almost two years on counts of grand larceny.

The friend, Perry, told local reporters police didn’t believe her when she told them he was having trouble breathing. “I seen Andrew and the other car, and the two police officers were dragging him out of the car like an animal,”she told reporters, “and he was lying on the ground motionless. When I called his name multiple times, he didn’t respond. He was looking up at the sky, not blinking, motionless.”

The Schenectady Daily Gazette reported, “En route, Kearse complained of breathing problems and said he felt dizzy, a city police statement read.  ‘Upon arrival at the police department, he was unresponsive, and paramedics from the Schenectady Fire Department were immediately called to render treatment,’ the city police statement read.” An investigation into the incident was handed over to the New York State Police Department and the State Attorney General’s Office is presiding over the investigation.

When Perry, Kearse’s friend, was being booked for a misdemeanor, obstructing governmental administration she asked the police what was wrong with her boyfriend. “They told me he was faking. Nothing was wrong with him,” she told reporters. According to Perry, 15 minutes later paramedics were rushing in a defibrillator.

Kearse received medical assistance eventually, but never regained consciousness. He later was declared dead at a local hospital. His wife, Angelique Negroni-Kearse, told a local ABC News affiliate, “I lost my best friend, my soulmate. My kids are asking where daddy is? What happened to daddy?”

The Albany Times-Union reported on May 16, “a neighbor, who preferred not to be named, said Kearse was dragging his feet and yelling that his legs hurt when he was taken into custody. The neighbor could not see any thing preceding Kearse’ arrest, but said Kearse was taken from the backyard by two officers, and it took four officers to lift him into a police vehicle.”

The Schenectady Police Department have a history of abuse and police brutality. In April 2016, 15 members of the department were defendants in a civil rights lawsuit stemming from a 2014 police brutality incident. “Get your f—ing black ass over here because I am going to f— you up,”an officer allegedly said according to the lawsuit. A settlement was reached in April 2017 for an undisclosed sum.

In 2003, the FBI and Department of Justice probed the department for rampant cases of police brutality, civil rights violations, and corruption. Since then, the department has still been plagued by instances of excessive force and police brutality. Vera Moore was knocked unconscious and suffered two cuts on her head by two Schenectady Police Officers while in a holding cell in 2015. In March 2017, a Schenectady Police Sergeant received just a suspension for his role in splitting the head open of 39 year-old Nicola Cottone woman on a police station bench while she was handcuffed behind the back at the time.

The most recent incident involving the Schenectady Police Department in Andrew Kearse’s  death while under their custody is currently under investigation, but it appears to be part of a broader trend within a department with an established reputation of excessive force and brutality.

Michael Sainato’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Buffalo News, the Hill, Alternet, and several other publications . Follow him on twitter: @MSainat1