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RPD Officer Facing Misdemeanor Assault Charges in Alleged Excessive Force Case

Rev. Lewis Stewart, Pastor and Community Activist

By John Williams –

A grand jury has charged Rochester Police Officer Michael Sippel with third degree assault in the excessive force case involving Rochester resident Christopher Pate.

Spenser McAvoy, the other Rochester Police Officer involved in the alleged assault has not been charged.

McAvoy and Sippel arrested Christopher Pate back in May at the corner of Fulton Avenue and Bloss Street. Pate says the officers asked him twice for his identification, which he said he gave to one of the officers.

Pate claims he was then grabbed shot with a Taser and handcuffed. While he was handcuffed, Pate says he was punched in the face by one of the officers, causing bone and jaw fractures and other damages to his mouth.

The two officers have been suspended without pay since August.

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley brought the case to the grand jury who voted to charge only Officer Sippel.

“I believe that the presentation that was given to the grand jury, including any body-worn camera evidence and testimony from people who were there was clear, Doorley said in a press conference.

Community Activist Rev. Lewis Steward said he was disappointed with today’s ruling. Steward was expecting Doorley to push for indictment of both police officers.

“The community—I know—was expecting total justice but the message it sends was not ok with me,” Stewart said. “I’m calling on the city of Rochester to expedite the release of the video tape sharing the encounter Christopher Pate had with these officers McAvoy and Sippel. The public needs to judge for itself whether these cops—both of them—should be held accountable.”

Stewart said the ruling was a “mixed situation” but concedes that “on the other hand it will send a message that police officers are not above the law.”

Rochester City Council President Loretta said she is still incredibly saddened by Pate’s experience but encouraged that the wheels of justice are beginning to move in the right direction.

“It [the indictment] shows that we are a community that will not tolerate injustice, Scott said in a statement. “The Rochester Police Department exists to serve and protect the people of this community; that is their sole function, and when actions like those that were inflicted on Mr. Pate occur it erodes public trust in law enforcement and furthers the divide between police and people of color.”

“The decisions handed up today by the Monroe County Grand Jury represent the first step in the judicial process. We must accept these decisions and allow the criminal justice system to take its course,” Mayor Lovely Warren said.

The RPD would not comment on the decision citing that it’s “a pending matter before the court, and out of respect for the judicial process and our own internal investigation, it would be inappropriate to provide any further comment regarding this event.” They issued a statement saying “The Men and Women of the RPD will continue to serve the citizens of Rochester with the highest level of service, respect, and professionalism.”

Sippel is scheduled to be arraigned November 15. The DA says there will be no other charges in the case.

Third degree assault is a misdemeanor offence and carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail.

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