Officials in Saratoga Springs are defending their actions after a man was critically injured following a police chase early Saturday morning. Now, the Spa City is facing protests and claims of police brutality.
According to police reports, at 3:02 Saturday morning, police in Saratoga Springs responded to reported disturbance on Caroline Street, a sometimes rowdy area known for several busy bars that remain open in the early morning hours.
Police pursued Darryl Mount Jr. of Malta on foot after it was reported that Mount shoved his girlfriend into a wall. Police unsuccessfully fired TASERS at Mount during the chase. The ensuing moments remain unclear – after Mount led officers through a construction zone off a neighboring street, police lost sight of him, and he was then found unconscious adjacent to a scaffolding. Police believe he fell from the scaffolding.
Mount was brought to Albany Medical Center and remains in a coma.
The events have sparked outrage and protests. Outside a city council meeting on Tuesday evening, protesters carried signs in support of Mount, unconvinced by police reports that Mount fell off a scaffold. They claimed police brutality.
Inside council chambers, family members demanded answers from city officials.
Polly Saunders, Mount’s aunt, said although she does not know what happened that evening, she was critical of the way police responded to the initial disturbance involving Mount and his girlfriend. Chanting from protesters outside could be heard inside City Hall.
"You've all made it very aware to let the public know that this was a public boy that was on parole," said Saunders. "So wouldn't it have been much easier to go into the police department and pick up the phone and call his parole officer to pick him up? Why did we take these steps?"
Peggy Pregent, also an aunt of Mount, said she had doubts about the way the incident was reported.
"I believe that police officers did play some kind of part in the accident and that scares and infuriates me all at the same time," said Pregent. "I pray that Darryl will come out of his coma and remember what really happened, because somewhere between the rumors, in the witness statements, and the police officers account of what happened lies the real truth."
Other members of the public came forward and told stories of witnessing police brutality.
Darryl Mount Sr., Mount’s father, also addressed the city’s leadership.
"My son lays fighting for his life, behind your officers. We're tired of this brutality," said Mount Sr. "Uphold your oath. Take care of this. When does it stop? When somebody's child dies?"
Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Vietch says he does not believe police acted incorrectly in their pursuit of Mount in the moments that led up to his injury.
"There's no evidence that this is a case of police brutality at all," said Vietch. "Anyone who says that they saw an officers abusing Mr. Mount during this incident, I welcome them to come forward and I will personally take their statement.
Vietch continued, "We don't' believe the officers did anything wrong. They have accounted for their actions, they've been forthcoming about what happened. And unfortunately Mr. Mount is in critical condition and we hope that he gets better - that is reason that we have not chosen to charge him yet."
With some concerned residents coming forward in support of an outside investigation, Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathieson said that the city is still gathering evidence in its investigation.
"All the facts need to come out," said Mathieson. "There's a lot of surveillance cameras on Broadway, on Caroline Street, on Putnam Street that hadn't been in place in the past, so I think those cameras will be very helpful in terms of helping to determine exactly what happened.
"Some of the people who are alleging that Darryl Mount wasn't pushing this woman up against a wall - well, we have video that will show whether or not this testimony is accurate," continued Mathieson. "We have video to show where the positions of the officers were, so I think we need to give time and I think that for now there's really not reason to give the Department the benefit of the doubt."
Mathieson said surveillance video footage may be able to determine the nature of Mount’s and police officers’ actions during the reported disturbance on Caroline Street; however no video footage could show how Mount became injured.
Mathieson defended the Department of Public Safety’s handling of the event, considering medical assistance was called for at 3:08, six minutes after the initial reports of the disturbance on Caroline Street.