Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard says he'll wait for the internal investigation to play out before weighing in on a provocative incident that took place on Seyle Terrace around 5 p.m. yesterday (see video from Sheppard's press conference below). The incident, which was recorded by an unnamed bystander and posted to YouTube, shows Rochester police officers struggling to subdue and arrest Romengeno Hardaway, 16, and his older sister, Brenda Hardaway, 21.
In the short video's most jarring moment, a police officer strikes Brenda Hardaway, who says she is pregnant, in the back of the head and forces her to the ground.
In a press conference this afternoon, Sheppard said that police responded to Seyle Terrace in northeast Rochester for reports of a fight involving five or six people. He said that Romengeno Hardaway became verbally abusive with officers and resisted when police tried to arrest him.
Sheppard said that Brenda Hardaway physically interfered with the arrest and pointed a can of pepper spray at officers. Both Hardaways were eventually taken into custody.
Although he wouldn't comment on the tactics used during the arrests, Sheppard said that officers are trained in "distracting strikes" to help bring people under control. He also said that officers used "tremendous restraint" during this chaotic incident and that none of this would've happened if the Hardaways had complied with officers.
"Our actions were dictated by her actions," Sheppard said.
Brenda Hardaway has been charged with assault, resisting arrest, menacing, and unlawful possession of a noxious material. Romengeno Hardaway has been charged with two counts of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
City Council President Lovely Warren, who is also a candidate for mayor, came in at the end of the press conference. She said that she has been getting calls about the incident all day and that she has seen the video.
"I was shocked and appalled by the strike to the face," Warren said.
She said she is still learning the facts of the case.
Sheppard said that a review of the event is being conducted by the RPD's Professional Standards Section, and then the case will go to the Civilian Review Board.