Troy police are defending the actions of their officers after a witness says they used excessive force. The Internal Affairs Captain will be conducting an investigation stemming from an arrest on Friday night.
Officers in an unmarked car first tried to stop two men in Troy; instead, they say the suspects tried to run over one of them then drove over the Hoosick Street Bridge onto I-787 and got off the highway in Menands.
By that time, back up arrived and cornered the men on a private street off Route 378. That is where witnesses accuse police of beating the men.
NEWS10's John Craig has fall out and reaction from the incident.
With members of her family watching and holding a formal police complaint slip in her hand, Jessica Ashley stood on the steps of Troy Police Headquarters and said her great-nephew, Marquese Devon Hill, was beaten by police Friday night.
“Everybody wants to wash these kinds of abuses under the rug. It's unacceptable,” Ashley said.
Captain John Cooney of the Troy Police Department recounted reports of the officers' actions to the media in a press conference. He said, “The officers utilized both batons, flashlights and personal weapons to basically subdue the suspects, bring them under control and to safely handcuff them.”
It all started on the corner of Hoosick and Tenth streets in the City where the first encounter occurred. The officers approached a car, held up their badges and ID and asked the suspects inside to exit the vehicle. Instead the officers said the car backed up nearly hitting one of them and then took off, going South on Hoosick and hopping on 787.
The plain clothes officers radioed for help and followed the suspects, two men known to police and with extensive criminal backgrounds. Jamel Dewitt, the driver, was wanted for questioning in a Troy shooting, and Hill, the passenger, had a parole violation.
The pursuit became an all out chase off Exit 7 at 787 to Route 378 in Menands. Police say the suspects then turned onto Woods Lane, a private road, where the chase ended at around 9:45p.m. But even though their car was stopped, according to officers, the suspects still refused to get out of the vehicle. That is when witness Libby Post says things turned ugly. Outside her house in Menands were flashing lights and a commotion.
“You see things like this in grainy black and white on the television from the cop's video. This was in person, close up and personal and it was not pretty … I could see one of the cops standing over one of the guys just over and over again hitting him. And we could hear the thud of the baton hitting the guy's body,” said witness Libby Post.
Back outside the Troy Police Headquarters, Jessica Ashley discussed with the media the condition Marquese Devon Hill and her feelings on the city's police force.
“He's [Hill] got bruises, cuts, severe beating around his head, his face … I want you to know that the Troy Police Department is notorious for not taking responsibility for officers that don't know how to conduct themselves in a professional manner,” she said.
The family is filing a formal complaint on the issue. Police say that the officers involved, William Bowles and Jeffrey Hoover, knew of the suspects' prior arrests.
“Criminal possession of a loaded firearm, drug sale, drug possession, attempted murder. Numerous drug and weapons convictions,” said Cooney as he listed some of those prior arrests.
Jessica Ashley, however, does not see eye-to-eye with the department's reasoning. She said, “There's no reason to use that kind of force. None whatsoever,”
Whereas Captain Cooney is concerned, he stands behind his officers but pledges to conduct a full internal investigation. He said to the media, “The Troy Police Department fully supports the actions of our officers. We stress, however, that based on the concerns given to us by Miss Post, we will be conducting a full, thorough and unbiased investigation of the use of force … This will be an all encompassing investigation and no stone will be left unturned,”
Paramedics treated both Jamel Dewitt and Marquese Devon Hill at the station and police say the men refused three times go to a hospital. The family says that is not true. For now, Hill is in jail without bail on a parole violation, and Dewitt is out on bail. The officers remain on duty.