The Department of Justice on Wednesday charged two men for attacking police officers in Rochester, New York, during a violent protest on Sept. 5.
The prosecutors indicted Adam Green, 20, for striking a police officer in the helmet with a makeshift wooden shield. Dallas Williams-Smothers, 20, is accused of lobbing a commercial grade mortar firework at a group of officers. Both men face five years in prison if convicted.
Green and Williams-Smothers were part of a crowd of approximately 1,500 protesters who blocked an intersection in Rochester in response to the March 30 death of Daniel Prude, who died a week after an encounter with Rochester Police Department (RPD) officers.
The RPD declared the group at the intersection an unlawful assembly after the protesters hurled rocks, bottles, lit fireworks, and other objects at officers. People in the group also shone flashlights and lasers at police on the scene.
When the crowd refused to leave, an officer approached Green, who in turn swung his shield at the officer’s head and struck him on the helmet. The officers suffered a cut and an abrasion to the bridge of his nose as a result.
“After being told he was under arrest, Green resisted and fought with the officer and another officer who was assisting,” a statement from the Department of Justice says. “Green was eventually handcuffed and arrested.”
At roughly 11:20 p.m. the same night, Williams-Smothers lit a firework mortar and hurled it at a group of officers addressing the crowd at an intersection. The firework exploded nearby the officers and Williams-Smothers fled on foot. The RPD used a description of the man to arrest him later nearby. Officers confiscated two more mortar-style fireworks from Williams-Smothers upon his arrest.
“These arrests are not about deterring free speech, they are about deterring violent and dangerous criminal activity,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York James Kennedy said during a press conference announcing the charges.
U.S. Attorney Kennedy says his Office will continue to investigate acts of violence at protests in Rochester and will charge to the fullest extent of the law:
"These arrests are not about deterring free speech, they are about deterring violent and dangerous criminal activity." pic.twitter.com/lN39Ub86Pf
— WDNYnews (@WDNYnews) September 9, 2020
Top police leaders in Rochester, New York, announced their retirements following the violence over the weekend. Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito, and a commander retired, while two more leaders gave up command positions.
Black Lives Matter activists had called for Singletary to resign or be fired over how his department handled the investigation into Prude’s death.
Singletary said that he won’t “sit idly” while outside forces try “to destroy my character,” adding that events “over the past week are an attempt to destroy my character and integrity.”
“The mischaracterization and the politicization of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr. Prude’s death is not based on facts, and is not what I stand for,” he said.
A medical examiner reviewing Prude’s death concluded that it was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report listed excited delirium and acute intoxication by the recreational drug phencyclidine, or PCP, as factors contributing to his death.
Police officers had put a spit guard on Prude as he resisted arrest after relatives called for help when he was suffering a mental episode. Officers found him running naked in the street. He had struggled against the arresting officers while spitting on them saying that he had contracted COVID-19.
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.