NEW ROCHELLE, NY — A 16-year veteran of the New Rochelle Police Department has been suspended 30 days and referred to the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office after punching a man in the face while off-duty.
The police officer is White. The victim is Black.
The incident occurred 8 months after the officer-involved shooting of Kamal Flowers, a 24-year-old black man, who was killed by NRPD officer Alec McKenna.
UPDATE 6/21: Based on analysis of a photo published by the New Rochelle PBA on 6/18, we assess the location of the physical altercation occurred on the Main Street side of the Gulf Express (Gulf) gas station located at 635 Main Street in New Rochelle, just over a half-mile from the Super Gas (Quality Fuel) gas station at 720 Main Street in New Rochelle.
The incident occurred on Monday.
UPDATE 1:35 PM: Multiple sources tell Talk of the Sound the incident began at the SuperGas gas station at 720 Main Street off Woodland Avenue when a Male/White, an off-duty New Rochelle police officer, observed a verbal altercation between a Male/Black and a Female/Black. The man was outside the woman’s car yelling and pounding on the car window. The police officer began video recording the altercation. The woman drove away at which point the man observed the officer recording video and engaged the officer. The officer drove away. The man followed him. The officer called the police.
Responding NRPD officers took the man into custody at which point the off-duty police officer punched the man, now victim, in the face. The victim was taken to Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital for observation and released.
UPDATE 3:44 PM: Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah spokesperson has confirmed the office is investigating the incident.
UPDATE 5:09 PM: Statement from City Manager Charles B. Strome in response to our inquiries.
We are declining to release the officer’s name at this time. Officer has been employed by NRPD for 16 years.
The incident took place on Main Street at the west junction.
The event began at 720 Main where the off-duty NRPD officer intervened in a domestic dispute between a mother and son from Mount Vernon. The son was harassing and threatening his mother.
The mother fled the area. The officer also left the location in his vehicle. The Mount Vernon man then got into his own vehicle and pursued the officer.
The event concluded on Main Street when both vehicles stopped as marked radio cars with uniformed officers arrived.
The Mount Vernon man continued to be agitated, threatening and disorderly.
As a uniformed officer was taking the Mount Vernon man into custody, the off-duty officer involved himself in the arrest and struck the Mount Vernon man with his fist.
The officer was suspended later in the afternoon on Feb. 15.
We are still asking for the time of the incident, where it ended, whether the victim was criminally charged and, if so, what charges and booking photo. Same for the police officer. And any video.
UPDATE 6:25 PM David Propper writing for the Journal News obtained a statement from New Rochelle PBA attorney Andrew Quinn:
“The decision to release a statement to the public before an investigation has even begun is deeply disturbing and extremely unfair to the officer.
“We are confident that, when an investigation is actually conducted and completed, the officer will be fully exonerated of all allegations of misconduct.”
The officer observed “an enraged man attempting to assault a woman in her car and when the officer tried to videotape it, the man turned his fury to him.”
The officer “fled in his car and called for uniformed officers, but the man pursued the officer for several minutes in his car. When on-duty officers responded, the man resisted arrest, which led to the off-duty officer assisting uniformed officers with use of force, which…was justified.”
The man faces several charges.
The man was not injured.
Talk of the Sound emailed questions to Quinn and will update this story with any replies.
The City Manager advised members of the City’s Clergy Rapid Response team and the City’s African American Advisory Committee of the incident.
The New Rochelle Police Department issued a statement but declined to release the officer’s name.
UPDATE 2/28: Talk of the Sound has confirmed the officer is Detective Michael Vaccaro.
Statement by City of New Rochelle
On February 15, 2021, an altercation occurred involving an off-duty officer with the New Rochelle Police Department and an individual from Mount Vernon. The altercation followed an apparent domestic dispute between the individual and a member of his family that was observed by the off-duty officer. After the initial review of this incident, the Police Department has determined that the off-duty officer’s actions were inappropriate.
Accordingly, the officer has been placed on 30 days unpaid suspension, the most serious disciplinary measure that can be imposed in such circumstances. Additionally, the matter has been referred to the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office for further review.
The altercation occurred in the presence of several on-duty New Rochelle Police Officers, all of whom appear to have acted appropriately.
The New Rochelle Police Department trains its members to intervene when they observe improper conduct among colleagues, including, as in this case, senior colleagues, and the on-duty officers in this case demonstrated the importance of such training.
The City Administration has contacted the City Manager’s Clergy Rapid Response team and has met with the City’s African American Advisory Committee in order to share all information available to us at this time. We are grateful for the guidance and partnership of these leaders.
Mayor Noam Bramson declined to comment.
NAACP New Rochelle Branch President Minister Mark McLean declined to comment.
The New Rochelle Police Department did not respond to requests for further information including arrest reports, booking photos, video recordings.
Talk of the Sound is investigating to get the name and further details. If you have additional information please call or text 914-335-4615 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE 2/19 at 2:39 PM: Westchester District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah released a statement regarding the DA’s Office investigation into allegations of misconduct by members of the Mount Vernon Police Department portions of which are relevant to the matter described above:
“The integrity of our criminal justice system is critical to fairness and to public safety.”
“Under direct supervision from me, an expanded and focused team of Assistant District Attorneys is working on public integrity matters.”
“We will work with all local police department internal affairs bureaus as necessary and appropriate. However, we want to be sure that Westchester residents understand that our investigations will always be conducted independently from any department where personnel are under investigation. A local police department’s conclusions about its own internal investigations cannot and do not represent the conclusions of the Westchester District Attorney’s Office.
“We strongly encourage anyone who has information about misconduct by any member of law enforcement to complete our on-line form at www.westchesterda.net/contact-us/complaint-form or contact us at email@example.com.”