Nearly two decades have passed since the city of Rochester saw a similar incident to what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis: the case of Lawrence Rogers. 

Civil rights attorney Van White represented Rogers' family and said, “the similarities are strikingly eerie and tragically similar.”

What You Need To Know

  • Lawrence Rogers died in 2002 following an arrest by the Rochester Police Department

  • An officer put his knee on Rogers' neck during the arrest

  • Rogers complained of being unable to breathe while in the police van

In August 2002, Rogers, 30, died after a police encounter at the former Wegmans on Driving Park Avenue in Rochester.

“He was in some psychological distress and a number of individuals had called for support for him; the police came, turned it into what’s called a mental hygiene arrest, but from there, it quickly escalated out of control," White said.

In the 2002 video, the police officers are seen using force — one officer placed his knee on Rogers' neck while arresting him.

White says Rogers complained in the police van that he couldn’t breathe and was taken to Rochester General Hospital, where he later died.

“The sad and tragic similarity is Mr. Rogers died of positional asphyxiation, which is a form of suffocation, and from all that I understand about the Floyd case is that he too died from basically suffocation at the hands of the police department,” said White.

The attorney tells Spectrum News the officer involved had a record of "abusing the rights of citizens." The case was settled with Rogers' family, but White says the issue of racism and police abuse was not settled. 

White added that after a separate case, the Rochester Police Department did change how it responds to mental health situations.

“Nobody is safe from a bad apple in the bunch, and so our leaders have to become very systematized in understanding who in their police force is rotten, is a rotten apple, and how do they systemically remove them,” said White.

White pointed to legislation now being discussed in Albany by state lawmakers as a solution to red flag officers who display a pattern of this behavior.