On Friday night, the City of Ithaca released 10 videos, all of which can be viewed here, that show the arrests of Cadji Ferguson and Rose DeGroat on the night of Saturday, April 6.
The videos, taken from a mix of Commons security camera footage and body cameras worn by investigating and arresting officers, offer some more insight into the events leading up to the arrests and the police's conduct while they were making the arrests of Ferguson and DeGroat, who are both black. Most of the informative value of the videos comes from their depiction of the arrest of DeGroat, who was originally charged with two counts of a Class E felony for "second degree attempted assault," appeared in court late last month and had the felony charges dropped. She was also charged with one count of resisting arrest, a misdemeanor. Ferguson, meanwhile, was charged with one count of disorderly conduct, as was another apparent member of the crowd, Riley Johnson.
The videos show four police officers standing at the bottom of the Commons when they are approached by a woman. (Video 3 of 10 might provide the most clear view of what occurred, among the 10 released, taken from body cam footage of one of the responding officers who arrests DeGroat. Video 1 of 10 likely holds the best view of the fight leading up to the arrest, being at about 1:15, although it is so far away form the altercation that the word "best" is being used generously.) Audio is not available for this part of the video, so it's not certain whether the woman was reporting something to the police or otherwise, but shortly after all four officers run past her as a fight appears to break out further up the Commons. They first make contact with Ferguson, swinging him around by his arm; during this portion of the video, one officer ends up falling on the ground, though it looks like that was a result of losing his balance instead of a direct assault by Ferguson or someone else. While in the grasp of two of the officers, the third officer, who fell, appears to discharge his taser as Ferguson is already being held by two officers. Ferguson quickly falls to the ground after the discharge.
The probes are later removed from Ferguson's skin by an officer at his police car. As Ferguson is pinned by officers, he claims the situation began when a man on the Commons made an unwanted sexual advance towards one of Ferguson's friends, and Ferguson intervened, which prompted an altercation with the man. From all reports, it doesn't seem like the other man was apprehended, and another man's name didn't appear in the media releases Ithaca Police published after the incident, which only listed Ferguson, DeGroat and Johnson's name as involved parties.
The videos take an even more intense turn from there. In an effort to protect Ferguson, an emotional DeGroat appears to grab at the coat of one of the arresting officers. She's subsequently detained by multiple officers, first pushed into one of the large metal planters that line the Commons by two officers and then subsequently slammed to the ground and held down by three officers, flailing on the way down. The video turns particularly damning for police as DeGroat is held on the ground, with an officer's knee pressing on her head as onlookers plead for him to remove his knee, though he responds by brandishing his taser at the increasingly volatile crowd. That officer's body cam footage of the altercation, found in Video 4 of 10, is largely obstructed by his jacket. At this point, even Ferguson, who's still on the ground in handcuffs, is calling out to DeGroat in an attempt to comfort and calm her. He is subsequently removed, led in cuffs to a police car next to the Cornell Store.
Meanwhile, DeGroat remains on the ground for about 90 seconds until she is lifted off the ground and escorted, in handcuffs, to a different police vehicle. Her interaction with police is silent until, at the five minute mark of Video 3 of 10, it appears she sees one of the officers confronting one of her friends who had become emotional and was yelling at them. DeGroat reacts physically, attempting to rush past the police to her friend, which then leads to another physical struggle that results in her being forced into the backseat of the police vehicle.
There are certainly parts of the remainder of the videos that may cause further consternation for Ithaca police, though they are more subjective in nature than the arrest itself. At one point, while leading Ferguson to the squad car, an officer asks him "How did that feel?" when Ferguson complains of being tazed, but it's unclear if that statement was meant as a taunt or an attempt at commiseration. The rest of the interaction continues on fairly peacefully, though at one point the other participant in the fight apparently walks over to the police car, which enrages Ferguson again. Ferguson is then taken to the police station.
Myrick acknowledged the videos' low points in his Facebook post accompanying the video links, saying he had ordered an internal investigation once he reviewed the footage of the arrests. Myrick did not offer details on the status of that investigation, but did say that he made the decision to release the videos out of a desire for transparency and public trust in a statement on his personal Facebook page. The release came days after the mayor was publicly challenged in a Facebook post from Black Lives Matter Ithaca, who called on him to launch an investigation into the conduct of the arresting officers and the white man who was apparently a participant in the initial fight, drop all charges related to the incident and apologize, pay medical costs for those involved, discipline the arresting officers, empower the accountability tools of the Community Police Board and "acknowledge the larger pattern of discrimination against people of color by the IPD."
"Immediately after the incident I asked to review this footage. I saw enough that worried me - so I ordered an internal investigation," Myrick wrote on Facebook Friday night. "I can't speak to the details of an ongoing investigation but I can tell you that if the outcome suggests wrongdoing we will take appropriate corrective action."
On Saturday, in response to the release of the videos, the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association, the police union in Ithaca, issued their own statement on Facebook, appearing to condemn the release of the videos as a politically motivated move meant to taint the police's image; considering the footage release is simply a factual accounting of the event in question, it's not quite clear what the PBA's substantive objection to the release is, aside from claiming that publishing them was premature because there's an ongoing internal investigation. Myrick and the PBA have long had a contentious relationship, stemming primarily from the lack of a new employment contract agreement for several years between the city and the police department.
"The only purpose this serves is to incite dissention [sic] and hatred towards our Members and to encourage civil unrest in our Community, all which are entirely unacceptable," read a post on the PBA's Facebook page. "We are concerned by Svante's tone and his inclination to immediately assume that Police Officers are wrong for performing their duties before having any facts surrounding the situation. Again, even more concerning is that Svante prematurely released this footage intentionally to support his own agenda while forcing the same on the public."