A video posted on YouTube of a Saugerties police arrest on Jane St. Monday night appears to show a police officer wrestling a struggling teen to the ground, causing an injury to the teen’s face that left him bloodied.
As with any use of force, the arrest is being reviewed internally by police. After reading the reports filed by the police officers involved in the incident, and reviewing eyewitness statements and a statement made by the teen, Police Chief Joseph Sinagra said Tuesday afternoon that he backs the action of his police officers, and said that they “acted in an appropriate manner.”
The incident, much of which was observed by this reporter and his wife, began in front of the Speedy Mart convenience store at about 6:30 p.m.
Sinagra said police received a 911 call about a fight involving a number of young men happening in front of the Main Street convenience store.
The fight, Sinagra said, involved seven young men and was not gang-related. When police pulled up to the scene, the chief said, a number of the young men fled, two in cars and two ran through the M&T Bank parking lot, which is across the street from Speedy Mart.
Police officer Paul Gambino pursued the individuals through the bank parking lot in his vehicle. It was at this point that this reporter and wife, who live nearby, ran out into their driveway to see what the commotion was about.
One of the two individuals headed up Jane St. toward Partition St. before turning around and coming back to police. The second individual ran behind a house on Jane St. with Gambino now in foot pursuit.
Gambino collared the teen in the backyard of the house and brought him to the front of the house in handcuffs, with the teen screaming and yelling at the police officer all the time.
At this point, a number of young men in the rear parking lot of Village Pizza began taking video from their cell phones.
A second video was subsequently uploaded, showing the teen being lifted from the ground, blood visible on his face.
When Gambino walked the teen, whose name was not released because he is under 16 years of age and eligible for juvenile offender status, Sinagra said, officer Patrick Hastings came over to assist.
Hastings put the teen over the passenger front fender of the patrol car and tried to search him, the teen yelling all the time at the police and struggling.
Sinagra said statements made by police and witnesses asserted that the teen kicked Hastings and tried to struggle out of his grasp.
Because of the position of the patrol car, this is not seen in the video, nor did this reporter and his wife observe it.
Sinagra said that as Hastings struggled with the teen, they slipped and the teen fell into the ground. This is where the video stopped.
After a few seconds, the teen was pulled to his feet, bleeding extensively from his face. In the video, he can be heard to shout something about his “braces.” Diaz Ambulance was called and the teen was transported to the hospital for treatment of his injuries.
The crew of a second Diaz ambulance treated Hastings at the scene.
Lt. Stephen W. Filak Sr. is conducting an investigation into the incident, and then the findings will be reviewed by Sinagra.
Sinagra said, “It appeared that the officers acted within departmental guidelines,” in handling the matter.
“I wouldn’t expect the officers to act any other way,” the chief added. “I support my officers 100 percent.”
Town supervisor Kelly Myers said that she would be discussing the matter with the chief in order to get more information. She said that she had viewed the video.