An Ellenville resident has accused the New Paltz Police Department (NPPD) of police brutality during his arrest in the Village of New Paltz early last month.
At 3:40 a.m. on Sept. 9, Paul Echols, a 22-year-old black man, was involved in an altercation in front of P&G’s Restaurant and Bar on Main Street. According to Echols’ attorney Michael Sussman, Echols was arrested and struck by an arresting officer, while handcuffed in the back seat of the police car.
Court documents supplied by Sussman, and the perspective of Echols offer differing interpretations of the incident that morning.
Prior to the arrest, Echols was talking with two women when he was sucker-punched by an unknown, Caucasian third-party. In retaliation, Echols’ friend came to his defense, which is when numerous NPPD officers and Deputy Adam D. Montfort of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office intervened.
When officers began to arrest Echols’ friend, Echols began to protest, asking the officers why his friend was being arrested for defending him. According to an official statement from NPPD Officer Robert Stroh, Echols “repeatedly ignored warnings of arrest by persistently coming within a foot of officers… potentially causing a dangerous situation for the arrestee and fellow officer.”
According to Stroh, Echols began pulling his arms away, pushing and slapping the arresting officer’s hands while he attempted the arrest. According to Sussman, when Echols began calling the officer racist the officer retaliated, dislocating Echols’ jaw and dislodging three of his teeth.
“I observed Mr. Echols to have a completely bloody face while walking over to their location,” Montfort said in his supporting deposition. He then claims that Echols began spitting and yelling as he and the other officer began pulling Echols into the police car, spewing blood on officers. Echols claimed that the arrest was unjust and that the officers were being racist.
Echols appeared for the first time in the Town of Court of New Paltz on Oct. 10. He pleaded not guilty to five charges: Resisting Arrest, Obstructing Governmental Administration in the second degree, Disorderly Conduct and two counts of Harassment in the second degree.
Lack of coverage on the issue has not kept local activists and organizations in New Paltz quiet. Tanya Marquette, of the advocacy group Concerned Parents of New Paltz, has voiced concerns of what they see as an injustice.
The group has actively tried to broadcast the situation by circulating a photo of Echols’ face before and after his arrest. They also helped Echols write his police statement, gone to multiple court dates and met with the NPPD to ensure Echols receives justice.
The NPPD denied The New Paltz Oracle’s Freedom of Information Act request for the arrest record, they claimed that they were looking into the matter.
“We would ask people to be patient and not to jump to conclusions until the investigation is complete,” said Lieutenant Robert Lucchesi of the NPPD. “We would love to hear from anyone who have information to assist us.”
Concerned Parents filed a complaint to the police department to no avail. According to Marquette, the officer accused of excessive force has not received probation or any sort of disciplinary action. Meetings with the Police Citizens’ Advisory Committee, who review complaints against NPPD personnel are scheduled to happen, one of which will take place on Thursday.
“But the message is usually the same, and that’s ‘don’t bother us, we’ll look into it,” Marquette said. “We understand the police handles these matters, but the police needs to be part of the community and have respect for the intelligence of the community as well.”
According to Sussman, Echols is due back in the Town Court of New Paltz on Dec. 5 at 6 p.m.
Echols was unavailable to comment on the matter in time for this article.
Editor’s Note: This article covers a developing story. More details regarding the arrest will be published in a future issue.