Police chief: Officers investigated in woodchuck death suspended without pay

RENSSELAER, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Two local cops have been suspended without pay in connection to the death of a woodchuck at Frear Park in Troy.

Rensselaer Police Chief Rick Fusco said Officer Tyler Sammon and Officer Matt Spath have been suspended without pay for 30 days because they did not report the incident to their supervisors whether the animal’s death was intentional or not.

The internal investigation found they violated the department’s rules and regulations.

“Secondly, they’re charged with bringing discredit to the police department because of their inadequacies to report it properly,” Fusco said.

In late July, witnesses told staff at Frear Park they saw two men on a golf cart deliberately chase down a groundhog until it couldn’t run, and then ran it over with the cart. The Rensselaer Police Department Union held its annual golf tournament that afternoon.

Sammon and Spath were accused of the act, but they said it was an accident

RELATED: If Cops Ran Down Groundhog, They Should Be Fired

Both the Troy Police Department and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation conducted investigations. Troy police did not file any criminal charges, and the DEC closed its investigation due to a lack of evidence.

In addition, the Board of Public Safety said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that the groundhog’s death wasn’t an accident.

“There wasn’t enough evidence to prove this was intentional,” Mayor Dan Dwyer said. “It wasn’t there. We weighed out all the options and one thing we found out was they didn’t report it, which they should have done.”

The story received backlash on social media and made national headlines. Fusco believes the situation would have been handled differently had his officers come forward.

“Because they didn’t report it and because when I got knowledge of it, I knew nothing about it,” he said. “It created a problem. It created a very negative community opinion towards the police department.”

The chief hopes to change the public’s negative opinion of the department, and he believes a lesson can be learned.

“They have to report it,” he said. “You are held to a higher standard in a sense.”

Fusco said the department is not filing for termination because he believes Sammon and Spath when they said it was not an intentional act.

Both officers will return to work when the 30-day suspension ends.


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