The administration of Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, criticized for concealing information in the death of Daniel Prude last year, is now concealing information concerning the death of Mark Gaskill, who was shot and killed by two city police officers Friday morning.
That claim is based on the City Hall-dictated decision to withhold from the public details of the incident which have been distributed to city police officers and which were prepared for release to the community by mid-level police commanders.
Wanting to put as much information as possible before the public as soon as possible, officers and commanders have pressured the office of police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan to release the information they have gathered about the incident.
The chief declined, reportedly at the direction of the mayor’s office, and officers were ordered not to release the information.
That has created great upset within the department. Earnestly trying to build trust with the community, and to do things the right way, the sentiment within the police department is that complete and immediate transparency is crucial.
And so it is that the following internal bulletin has been leaked. Its purpose is to inform officers of the department about the details of the incident. The thinking of the officers is that the community deserves that information as much as they do, and that hard feelings and conflict can be reduced by releasing it.
This information was internally shared with police officers today, Monday:
“Officer Involved Shooting Notify
“25 Glasser St.
“Mark Gaskill (9/10/92) if 65 Hoff St. – On Parole for a Robbery conviction.
“First, I,” the officer preparing the bulletin wrote, “apologize the notify is coming out late. We understand the importance of sending out our Homicide and Serious Incident notifies, especially for (officer involved shooting) incidents, so our officers are kept informed.
“We have omitted the involved officer names because they have not yet been released publicly. Unfortunately, we have to be concerned about information being leaked out. As a result, this notify does not contain any information that would not normally be released to the general public.
“On 5/14/21, at about 4:20 a.m., a man is on Lyell Ave. when a vehicle passes his location, turns around and comes back in his direction. As the vehicle passes by the second time, the previously referenced male fires multiple gunshots at the vehicle as it again passes by him.
“It is unknown if the vehicle or its occupants were struck, but so far nobody has come forward indicating that they were shot at.
“Officers were in the area, heard the gunshots being fired and inquired with the dispatcher if there was a ShotSpotter activation. They were first advised no, but within 20 seconds or so dispatch advised they did receive an activation for six gunshots being fired.
“Officers advised they were responding to the area.
“The suspect who fired the gun along with people who exited a residence are observed on a private video camera entering a dark-colored sedan and travelling west on Lyell Ave. They enter the vehicle and leave the scene within about one minute and 10 seconds of the gunshots being fired.
“The vehicle is observed on video (eastbound) on Lyell and then (southbound) on Murray St.
“The camera room observes the vehicle leaving the immediate area of where the gunshots were fired and broadcasts this information over the radio.
“Within five seconds of the broadcast from the camera room regarding the vehicle, the camera room further advises over the police radio that there is a marked patrol vehicle behind the suspect vehicle. This is about two-and-a-half minutes after the shots were fired on Lyell Ave.
“Evidence recovered and gathered, including private and blue-light video evidence, have provided us with the sequence of events on Lyell Ave. The video evidence is not of the quality (with) which an identification can be made, but the male shooting the gun at the passing vehicle can be seen wearing a white do-rag and entering the rear passenger’s seat of the vehicle.
“Mark Gaskill was also wearing a white do-rag.
“Suspect vehicle travels (southbound) on Murray St to Glasser St.
“At this time, the marked patrol car is attempting to catch up to the vehicle. As the patrol car turns onto Glasser St., the suspect vehicle has already pulled over and the female driver is out of the car.
“It is at this time the officers begin to speak with both her and the occupants of the vehicle.
“Note that within just over two minutes from the time the gunshots were heard, the first officer is stepping out with the vehicle.
“The officer speaks with the driver of the vehicle outside of and near two patrol cars that are several car lengths behind the suspect vehicle. Two other officers speak with the two remaining occupants of the suspect vehicle. As seen in the (body-worn camera) footage that has already been released, these two occupants remain in the suspect vehicle for the duration of the conversation with the officers.
“It is at this time the officers are obtaining the names of the two individuals in the vehicle.
“The officer comments to Mark Gaskill that he is sweating profusely. This is clearly seen also on the Facebook Live video from Gaskill’s Facebook page.
“About (four to five) minutes into this initial verbal interaction, the officers learn over the police radio (that) shell casings have been recovered on Lyell Ave by other officers, which confirms there (were) in fact gunshots fired on Lyell Ave. It is also confirmed during this conversation with the occupants of the vehicle that they were in fact coming from the exact location where the spent shell casings were recovered.
“(Note the officers were talking to the suspect when this was broadcast over the radio.)
“One officer remains alongside the vehicle while the second officer began to run the names provided by the occupants, to see if they have any outstanding warrants for their arrest. The third officer is still talking with the female occupant several car lengths behind the suspect vehicle.
“Within about 12-13 minutes after the first verbal interaction with the vehicle occupants, it is learned the suspect in the back seat provided a false name. This is within 15 minutes of the initial gunshots being fired on Lyell Ave.
“After learning the rear passenger provided a false name, the officers attempt to ask him additional questions to ascertain his true identity.
“They ask him to open the door because they can’t hear him. He responds with something unintelligible. They try to open his rear passenger door, but can’t because it is locked.
“One officer opens the front door and at this time the rear passenger immediately pulls out and begins to raise a loaded 9mm handgun towards the officers.
“The officers immediately yell, ‘Gun!’ order him to drop it and begin to retreat.
“As the suspect opens the door to exit, the officers begin to fire their weapons.
“A total of 11 shots were fired by two police officers. One officer fired seven rounds and the other fires four rounds.
“Gaskill is struck five or six times. The sequence of the hits are not known, but are as follows:
“#1 Below the right knee – through and through
“#2 Back of the right thigh – travels through the leg
“#3 Right hand, base of the thumb, travels up arm and lodged above the wrist
“#4 Upper right chest area into the right arm
“#5/#6 Left arm above the elbow, exits the bicep. Lower left chest above the rib cage, travels out the shoulder blade. It is not known if #5 and #6 are the same or separate strikes
“—Three projectiles located inside the suspect, from shots #2, #3, #4.
“—Five projectiles recovered in the vehicle, along with shrapnel
“—One projectile recovered under the vehicle.
“The Monroe County Crime Lab has confirmed the casings recovered on Lyell Ave at the original shots-fired call were fired from the gun recovered on the suspect.”
That’s what the police officers want you to know, and that’s what the city’s leadership doesn’t want you to know.
If trust requires honesty and honesty requires transparency, then getting information out – good, bad or indifferent – as soon and as completely as possible is crucial. It is good policy on the part of government, and it is an undeniable right on the part of the community.
Yet Rochester’s City Hall continues to keep information from the public.
That’s the “what.” Now somebody is going to have to figure out the “why