NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- A New Rochelle Police vehicle was repeatedly vandalized in plain sight on a busy downtown street the other night. A group of men standing outside a bar on North Avenue repeatedly struck the vehicle, spit on the door handles and windows; one suspect used a knife to repeatedly gouge the side of the police vehicle as well as the side of a second city vehicle parked nearby.
New Rochelle Police are on the lookout for a male/black, age 25 to 35, who, along with several other men, also black, significantly damaged a police vehicle. The men took turns striking the vehicle over a 30 minute period. The incident took place just one block from the crowded New Roc City movie multiplex and entertainment center.
"Our Cabaret Task Force was conducting an SLA investigation of Chuggers Sports Bar," said New Rochelle Police Captain Cosmo Costa. "When Officers returned to their vehicles they observed that the passenger side of both vehicles had been damaged, apparently with a sharp object."
“The Cabaret Task Force is a multi-jurisdictional organization that is comprised of police officers, fire fighters, building inspectors, county health officials and agents from the State Liquor Authority,” said Paul Vacca, Director of the New Rochelle Building Bureau. Vacca said they visit locations where the public assembles to make sure the building is in compliance with health and safety ordinances and laws.
The entire incident, which took place shortly after midnight on Saturday, September 17th, was captured on surveillance video from a camera affixed to a nearby building. Talk of the Sound has obtained and viewed a copy of the entire recording (see links to YouTube above).
"Surveillance video is being reviewed," Costa said.
It is difficult to view the video without considering recent incidents across the county involving black men and white police officers and the various protests and riots that have ensued. The incident in New Rochelle takes place in an environment of escalating tension across the nation between police and the black community.
Black Lives Matter staged a recent protest march and rally in downtown New Rochelle, just a month earlier, on August 7th. The protest march ended and the ensuring rally took place at Ruby Dee Park, one block away from Chuggers.
The incident began after members of the New Rochelle Cabaret Task Force, all male/whites except for one female officer, arrived on scene in front of Chuggers at 234 North Avenue at 12:32 a.m.
Prior to the arrival of a dark blue unmarked police sedan and a white building department vehicle, a group of men, ages 20 to 35 can be seen on the surveillance video loitering in front of Chuggers, a bar known for fights, violence, drug dealing and patrons carrying concealed weapons.
The video shows how, when the Task Force arrives, the group disperses, leaving the area until officers, agents and inspectors go inside the bar. The group then reassembles in front of the bar, growing to about a dozen people.
As onlookers stroll past, the men take turns attacking the police vehicle, banging their bodies on the car, spitting on the door handles and windows, throwing things at the windows, kicking doors with their knees, shaking and emptying cans of liquid on the vehicle and more.
The bouncer in front of Chuggers, who can be seen exchanging friendly greetings with the men, stands nearby watching as the men attack the police vehicle. He makes no effort to intervene and, when the task force exits the bar moments later, says nothing about the vandalism which has been occurring directly in front of him.
At one point, the primary suspect, a man wearing a t-shirt jersey with the number “63” printed on it, walks over to the police car, take a large swig of liquid out of a cup, cocks his head back and spits out a large spray of spit and some other liquid, likely beer, onto the windshield and hood of the car.
After about 20 minutes inside Chuggers, Task Force members exit on to the sidewalk unaware of the vandalism. The group disperses again, standing 20 feet away, watching as the Task Force members go across the street to conduct another raid on a second bar.
Moments later, the man with the "63” shirt pulls out a folding blade knife, walks alongside both the police car and the building department vehicle, gouging both vehicles with the knife as he goes. He later comes back for a second swipe at the police vehicle.
The incident ended at 1:31 a.m when the Task Force members return to their vehicles and drive off.
The man in the “63” jersey walks directly towards the surveillance camera, leaving the scene with a second suspect. As the two men walk under the camera, the video captures high-resolution images clearly identifying both suspects.
City Council Member Jared Rice (D-District 3) has been active on social media denouncing police for excessive force in incidents around the country and promoting Black Lives Matter. Rice declined to comment for this article.
Mayor Noam Bramson said he would defer to the police department with regard to any statement.
City Council Member Ivar Hyden (D-District 4) who represents the section of New Rochelle where the incident took place said he looks forward to the vandals being prosecuted.
“This shows the importance of having security cameras in the business district,” said Hyden. “Hopefully these cameras will soon be tied into the city network.”
City Council Member Albert Tarantino (R-District 2) said he was not informed about the incident and had no comment. Tarantino is also a member of the Downtown Business Improvement DIstrict.
No arrests have been made.
Every officer in the City is carrying photos of the primary suspect, sources say.
Anyone with information about the incident should call the New Rochelle Police Department at 914-654-2300.
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story used the term "Quality of Life Task Force" instead of Cabaret Task Force.