NEW ROCHELLE, NY — New Rochelle Police Commissioner Joseph Schaller repeatedly lied during an invitation-only meeting of Black Clergy and public officials and again at a subsequent press conference hours after Police Officer Alec McKenna chased down, shot and killed Kamal Flowers on Friday June 5th.
Schaller, who has an alleged history of gross misconduct including misappropriation of City property and time theft, has lost all credibility to lead the department. City Manager Charles B. Strome must act immediately to remove Police Commissioner Schaller and replace him with a person capable of restoring trust in the department.
Schaller made numerous false statements at the Saturday June 6th press conference in order to present a false narrative in an attempt to justify why McKenna and a second officer conducted a traffic stop that ended with Flowers dead on the street in front of an animal shelter; that for two days police had been looking for a “suspicious vehicle” matching a description of the car Flowers was riding in driven by Isa Muhammad, a friend of Flowers.
New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson repeated many of the same falsehoods based on information provided to him by the police department.
Bramson declined to comment for this story.
In a statement issued the day after publication of this article, Bramson failed to take any responsibility for his role in promoting the false narrative used to justify the traffic stop that resulted in Kamal Flowers’ “appointment with a bullet”, as the Mayor so fancifully put it during the June 6 press conference.
UPDATE 7/21: Statement from Mayor Noam Bramson on this article.
Every statement I have made with regard to this incident has truthfully and accurately reflected the information provided to me at the time — while recognizing, as I noted at the beginning of the June 6th press conference, that our understanding of the facts can change as reviews and investigations proceed.
Facts cannot change as the result of an investigation or a review. By definition, facts are an objective statement of reality. Facts may come to light as a result of an investigation but the facts themselves do not change.
McKenna’s story fell apart immediately after six CCTV videos from the incident were made public. The videos show that McKenna’s claim that the shooting was justified because during a “tussle” Flowers pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger was false. Much else about his story has failed to stand up to scrutiny.
Schaller’s story has fallen apart over a license plate number.
During the June 6th press conference Schaller claimed that police stopped the vehicle with Flowers and Muhammad because it matched the description of a “suspicious vehicle” that had been driving in and out of the Heritage Homes apartment complex on Wednesday June 3rd: a Black Dodge Charger with tinted windows and Virginia plates (17:50 mark):
on Wednesday…Wednesday night…the night of the rally…we had a caller call in from the Heritage Homes who reported a suspicious vehicle…a vehicle going in and out of the area there with Virginia plates on it…the car had tinted windows…
Bramson parroted the NRPD talking points:
On Wednesday evening the New Rochelle Police received a call from a resident of Heritage Homes reporting a vehicle that was described as operating in an unusual fashion….it was a Dodge Charger with tinted windows and Virginia license plates…
Schaller said police had intelligence information that outside agitators were planning to come into New Rochelle in vehicles with New Jersey license plates, temporary plates and cars with tinted windows:
…this is something that all police departments in the area have been very alert to because there have been reports of people coming in from outside…particularly outside the state…with out of state plates, particularly temporary jersey plates…and tinted windows…
Schaller deceptively connected the reports of out-of-state agitators to the call at Heritage Homes on June 3rd to the traffic stop on June 5th.
…the car (from the June 3rd call) had tinted windows. We were looking for the vehicle then some of the officers on patrol last night spotted what appeared to be the vehicle, it committed several vehicle and traffic violations so they stopped it they pulled it over…
New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson parroted this NRPD-concocted trifecta:
…it was a Dodge Charger with tinted windows and Virginia license plates and so internally this vehicle was flagged for subsequent attention. Fast forward…last night two police officers in an unmarked police vehicle observed the car that had previously been reported, the car was pulled over…
…as the commissioner indicated this vehicle had been flagged already based on a call that been received from Heritage Homes…
Not only did the Dodge Charger driven by Isa Muhammed not have New Jersey plates or temporary plates or tinted windows, but police knew for days exactly who was driving the Black Dodge Charger reported at Heritage Homes on June 3rd: a longtime New Rochelle resident, known to the police who had been observed with the car on the evening of June 3rd.
Isa Muhammad grew up in City Park. He attended George M. Davis Jr. Elementary School, Albert Leonard Middle School and New Rochelle High School.
Muhammad spoke extensively with Talk of the Sound last week in a four-hour interview.
He worked for seven years for the Larchmont Sanitation Department and holds a CDL license. In 2019, he says, due to a lapse in insurance coverage, he was driving a car with an invalid registration when he was pulled over on Webster Avenue near Sickles Avenue. He says he was detained and his car was impounded; the officer who put him in handcuffs was Alec McKenna.
On the evening of June 3rd, Muhammad says he was at Heritage Homes when, he has since learned, a woman called police to report a “suspicious vehicle”. A police transcript of the call shows the woman never mentioned tinted windows and stated she did not see the license plate numbers on what she described as a Black Dodge Charger. The car driven by Isa Muhammad did not have tinted windows.
Muhammad says police did see him with the vehicle on June 3rd.
He says he was at Heritage Homes socializing with friends when he decided to go to the Solutions Grocery at the corner of Horton Avenue and Brook Street. As he parked his car — a Black Dodge Charger with Virginia license plates UPF1991 which he had rented in Mamaroneck on a month-to-month lease from Enterprise Rent-A-Car — several NRPD patrol cars converged on his location. Unaware as to why the police were there but knowing he had done nothing wrong, Muhammad says he walked deliberately towards one of the patrol cars so they could see him. No officer approached him as he went in and out of the store.
An audio recording obtained by Talk of the Sound under a Freedom of Information request included officers during the time of the incident initially reporting they were unable to locate the vehicle at Heritage Homes. An officer then reported seeing the car on Horton Avenue with two people in it; he was advised not to approach the vehicle.
“That car is parked on Horton and uh Brook…Why dontcha —- back soon.”
“10-4. Just hold off on that don’t uh don’t approach him. Wait ’til I pull off then we’ll stop ’em.”
“— to 19, you good?”
The audio ends before the incident ends without any further information about the vehicle, however according to the Incident Report, during the incident police ran a vehicle identification check on the license plate number UPF1991. Asked for records that might explain how police came to have the license plate number, NRPD said they have no record of how the license plate came to be known to the responding officers or how it came to be entered into the Incident Report during the incident.
Muhammad says after the death of Flowers a family member of the woman who reported the “suspicious vehicle” apologized, saying she had seen Muhammad and called the police to harass Muhammad who she knows, but was upset to learn Schaller said her call led to the shooting death of Flowers.
However it happened, the fact is that despite Schaller’s claims on June 6th, the police had all the information they needed to know that the Black Dodge Charger at Heritage Homes on June 3rd was not part of some out-of-state, anarchist plot to sow chaos in New Rochelle in the wake of the death of George Floyd, as he suggested before and during the press conference.
Schaller deliberately deceived New Rochelle’s Black Clergy, elected officials, the media and the general public: there was no mystery car driven by outside agitators and no connection between the events of June 3rd and the traffic stop on June 5th that ended with the death of Kamal Flowers.
The Incident Report for June 3rd obtained by Talk of the Sound shows that during the police event which ran from the initial call at 5:46 pm to 6:02 pm, the license plate number Virginia UPF1991 is attributed to Unit 19, one of the three responding units.
The Event Log shows an entry made by “SLOPEZ” attributed to “Unit 4”, one of the three responding units. Initially, “SLOPEZ” enters the correct VehicleID but the wrong VehicleState, seconds later SLOPEZ updates the record as Virginia UPF1991 then runs a Vehicle Query on Virginia UPF1991 which returns a match for a Dodge vehicle. Seconds after that incident is marked “clear” at 6:02 pm and the patrol cars return to service.
CSO Lopez is not one of the officers dispatched to Heritage Homes on June 3rd yet somehow he had license plate information at 6:01 pm that could only have come from the scene. LinkedIN has an account for Sergio Lopez, a Community Service Officer for the New Rochelle Police Department since 2004. Seethroughny.net lists a Sergio Lopez working for the City of New Rochelle who was paid $74,636 in 2019.
The account offered by Isa Muhammad is consistent with radio dispatch traffic that day in which the responding officers say they located a Black Dodge Charger on Horton Avenue but were advised not to approach the vehicle and with the NRPD statement issued June 16th that “the vehicle left the area and was not stopped by officers that day”.
In short, a woman complained about the Black Dodge Charger driving around Heritage Homes, policed located the car, driven by Isa Muhammad, checked the license plate and went back into service.
However the license plate number for the Black Dodge Charger got into the police records, the fact remains the on June 3rd police had the license plate number and had run a query on the vehicle which would include listing the registered owner of the vehicle: Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
Like all major rental car companies, Enterprise Holdings is part of a Car Rental Security consortium. Having documented the license plate number and run a vehicle query, New Rochelle Police knew the Black Dodge Charger was owned by Enterprise Holdings.
A call to the Enterprise Holdings 24-Hour Law Enforcement Inquiries hotline would have revealed not only that Isa Muhammad was the lessee for the vehicle but standard application form information including his drivers license with his photograph, his credit card details, his phone, his home address and more.
In short, despite Schaller’s claims on June 6th, there was no mystery about the vehicle at any point after 6:01 pm on June 3rd and police either knew Isa Muhammad was the driver because they observed him with the car on Horton Avenue or could have easily obtained information about him from the Enterprise Holdings 24-Hour Law Enforcement Inquiries hotline or both.
Muhammad says on the night of June 5th, he pulled up to the traffic light on North Avenue and Lockwood Avenue. An unmarked police car pulled up next to him and the two officers looked directly at Muhammad and Flowers. Muhammad said he recognized both officers but could only name McKenna. Muhammad says Flowers immediately recognized McKenna. Muhammad says he is certain the two officers recognized him and Flowers then followed them for more than a mile, down North Avenue to Hamilton Avenue to East Boulevard, switching on their police lights near the tennis courts on East Boulevard — not Pierce Street as has been stated by New Rochelle Police Department.
Police records prove the traffic stop on June 5th was entirely unrelated to the complaint filed on June 3rd. The police knew or should have known that Isa Muhammad was the vehicle lessee and, according to Muhammad, McKenna and his partner knew precisely who was in the vehicle on Friday June 5th.
Schaller knowingly deceived members of the New Rochelle City Council, leaders of New Rochelle’s Black Clergy, the media and the public by presenting an entirely fabricated account of the basis for the traffic stop predicated on an alarmist fable of unknown anarchists from New Jersey hiding behind tinted windows descending on New Rochelle to loot, burn and pillage.
The truth is more prosaic.
New Rochelle Police knew — or could easily have known — that the driver of the Black Dodge Charger was a long time New Rochelle resident who grew up in City Park and went through the local school system. Afforded the opportunity to talk to Isa Muhammad over a two-day period, New Rochelle police showed no interest in doing so yet after the shooting Police Commissioner Joseph Schaller and Mayor Bramson claimed police had been looking for the vehicle and the “unknown” driver for two days.
Schaller has fed a steady diet of lies to the community, elected officials and, in particular, the family of Kamal Flowers as well as the other victim in this story, Isa Muhammad.
Schaller must go. Now.