The day after the Rochester Police Department released 5 minutes, 33 seconds of redacted and annotated video of an officer shooting Simran Gordon inside the Family Dollar at 715 W. Main St. on Oct. 6, the Office of the Attorney General also released footage that was accompanied by a statement about its investigation.
The office of Attorney General Letitia James investigates all incidents in which a police officer, peace officer or corrections officer may have caused a person’s death, either by an act of commission or omission.
In a news release Oct. 13, the AG’s office said the videos follows James’ directive that “some camera footage obtained by her office in the course of an OSI investigation be released to the public in order to increase transparency and strengthen public trust in these matters.”
Police said Gordon was shot during an alleged attempted armed robbery.
It wasn’t clear from either RPD or the attorney general why video was released in slightly different formats. The RPD video is one clip that combines footage from the cameras of the primary officer and the backup officer. The video from the attorney general separated the footage of each officer.
In response to a request to clarify the two releases, Capt. Frank Umbrino of the department’s Major Crimes Unit said the video released by the attorney general uses the same footage, which was supplied by RPD.
The video from the attorney general runs longer, capturing other officers arriving to secure the scene and showing medical treatment. RPD does not show the faces of people giving or receiving medical treatment, Umbrino said. The video from the attorney general did not blur the faces of any officers. The RPD video did obscure the face of the first officer, which was captured by the camera of the second officer, because the department did not yet have a safety plan in place for that officer or others who responded, Umbrino said.
Free the People Roc, which since the death of Daniel Prude has organized numerous protests calling for policing changes and officer accountability, criticized the video released by RPD.
In a Facebook post on Oct. 12, Free the People said the redacted footage was heavily edited and “filled with biased rhetoric and propaganda in an effort to hid the simple truth: The RPD shot and killed Simran Gordon. …”
Free the People Roc also called for all video footage to be released. The organization also started a GoFundMe account to raise money for a funeral fund.
Four of the nine members of City Council issued a statement expressing condolences to the family of Simran Gordon while acknowledging the duty of the officers in responding to a call by citizens.
The statement was signed by City Council President Loretta Scott, Vice-President Willie Lightfoot and councilmembers Michael Patterson and Jose Peo.
“The officers involved in this incident upheld their duty to protect innocent bystanders and kept the customers and employees safe from harm, and we must commend them for that,” according to the statement. “The bravery of the staff who called 911 and the heroic acts of the responding officers saved any additional lives from being lost. We encourage anyone impacted by the trauma of this incident to seek support by calling 211, or by talking to a trusted family member, loved one, or professional.
“While we often focus on the complexity of police-community relations and the need for reform in our public safety system, we also need to acknowledge the difficult nature of a police officer’s job and their willingness to step into the line of fire to protect citizens.”
Lightfoot, chair of City Council’s Public Safety Committee and the Roc Against Gun Violence Coalition, said in the statement “I will continue to pray and work toward a Rochester where our citizens do not resort to such violent acts, and where no lives are lost as a result of gun violence.”
The Rochester Police Locust Club released a statement that acknowledged the support of some councilmembers but cited a lack of unanimity in recognizing that officers put their lives on the line for others.
“Some City Council members have now started to release statements that try to support the officers’ heroic actions,” the statement read. “Others didn’t even bother addressing the community about two young officers nearly being murdered. These politicians have agendas and have lost sight of the fact that an armed robber targeted community members and tried to kill a cop in this city. There should be no agendas, there should be no sides – everyone should be outraged by this brazen act.
“The City Council statements talk about the complexity of police-community relations. They fail to take ownership for their contribution when they turned their backs on officers and on community members facing unprecedented levels of violent crime. City Council members should be about this community and not about agendas. They need to start listening to the victims in this city and stop pandering for politics.”
RPD said officers responded to a 911 call from a person reporting an armed robbery and that an individual was holding the store clerk at gunpoint. Umbrino said the department was not allowed by corporation counsel to release the transcript of the call.
RPD said officers encountered an armed male. The department said gunfire was exchanged and that it appears at least one round was fired from the suspect’s gun.
The video from the attorney general’s office is at https://ag.ny.gov/osi/footage/simran-gordon.
The RPD video is at https://vimeo.com/630352556.
The RPD video starts with an introduction by Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan about what will be shown. The video includes text of the timeline, which on the video begins at 9:32 p.m. Oct. 6 with a cellphone call to 911 and then a hang-up. The 911 centers calls the cellphone, which belongs to an employee who said the store is being robbed.
The incident is shown three times, according to the text on the video to show how quickly the incident happened, a view of the suspect’s gun and audio of all shots, and pauses and commentary on the first officer’s video.
Officers arrive in about three minutes, and the video shows the first officer going into the store and asking, “Does anyone have a gun in here?”
Figures of people in the store are blurred, as is the face of the suspect. The first officer tells the suspect, later identified as Simran Gordon, to take his hands out of his pockets. The man starts moving away and the first officer reaches for him but does not grab him, and a chase ensues in the store. Shots are fired, and officers yell for Gordon to drop the gun.
The video from the second officer shows the first officer going into the store, initially with his gun in his hand, but then he holsters it as he goes through the doors. This clip is annotated with a description of what happens.
The first officer takes out his gun as he approaches the counter. When the suspect flees down an aisle pursued by the first officer, the second officer goes down an adjacent aisle. The text says that the first shot is fired by the suspect, followed by shots from the first officer. However, one the second clip, only the sound of shots is captured.
On Oct. 14, RPD sent an email to media clarifying that a total of six shots were fired in the incident.
The second officer’s video shows what RPD points out is the suspect’s gun partially wrapped in brown paper. The second officer said she has the gun, and moans can be heard. The first officer calls in that shots have been fired and second officer calls for EMS.
The first video from the attorney general’s office is 5 minutes 12 seconds from the camera of the first officer. It starts with the officer going into the store and asking, “Does anyone have a gun in here?”
It shows the initial contact, the suspect running down an aisle, and the sound of shots fired. It captures the first officer asking the second officer is she is alright, and she responds that she has the gun.
It also has the officers trying to secure the scene and the first officer saying the suspect fired a shot. The second officer said the man is not moving. There is police radio communication about the incident and more offices arriving.
The second clip is 7 minutes 36 seconds and is from the second officer’s camera. It also shows the first officer approaching the desk and the in-store chase. It has more of the second officer’s video, including her asking the suspect if he can hear her. There also is conversation about clearing the store of customers.
The clip shows about four or five other officers coming into the scene. Gordon is placed in handcuffs and officers say he does not have a pulse. The clip also shows a Rochester firefighter doing CPR.