SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Loved ones were left with more questions than answers Thursday after a 36-year-old city man died while in police custody.
Andrew Kearse, 36, was pronounced dead at Ellis Hospital on Thursday evening. His death came not long after Kearse was the subject of a foot chase in the Central Park neighborhood. Schenectady police said Kearse had been stopped by an officer on Ward Avenue around 4:30 p.m. for a routine traffic violation, but Kearse immediately exited his car and fled on foot, giving rise to the chase.
Kearse was apprehended in a nearby backyard. A neighbor, who could not see the arrest, said that he heard a voice screaming, “You’re hurting me! You broke my leg!”
Kearse’s girlfriend, who lived on Ward Avenue, said police were dogged in their pursuit of Kearse.
“He came in the house, and when he went in the house they tried to kick my front door in,” said Susan Perry, who says she dated Kearse for more than a year.
Perry says she told police not to break down her door; she was later arrested for obstructing governmental administration.
Police spokesman Matthew Dearing said on Thursday night that as Andrew Kearse was transported to police headquarters for processing, he complained of dizziness and difficulty breathing. Upon arrival at the police station, Kearse had become unresponsive.
“The paramedics were summoned immediately and treated him as soon as he arrived,” said Dearing.
But Perry, who was also transported to the police station, saw it differently.
"I [saw] Andrew in the other car,” she said, "and then two police officers were dragging him by his arms out of the car, like an animal. And he was laying on the ground motionless.
“When I called his name multiple times, he didn't respond,” she said. “He was laying there, staring up at the sky, not moving.”
Kearse was taken to Ellis Hospital and pronounced dead.
According to records from New York State Department of Corrections and Criminal Supervision, Kearse was paroled and released from prison on April 26, after serving nearly two years for grand larceny. He had previously served time for criminal sale of drugs.
Perry did not mention Kearse’s criminal convictions on Friday, but said that her boyfriend was afraid of police.
“They don’t treat people the right way,” she said.
Late Thursday, New York State Police took over the death investigation and said Schenectady police were cooperating fully. Schenectady police chief Eric Clifford released a statement on Friday, saying in part: "It is my intention to oversee an objective, independent review of all actions taken by the police during this arrest, but I stress that it is important that incidents be thoroughly and independently investigated before all of these questions and concerns can be answered and ultimate findings can be made."
State police indicated they would not release further information until their probe is complete.
On Friday, with tears in her eyes, Perry said her boyfriend’s death made no sense.
"A 36-year-old man with nine kids, is dead now over a traffic violation.” she said. “I can't get the picture out of my head, of him laying on the ground motionless, and [police officers] joking about it like he's just playing and faking ... and he was dying."