Jury Says Rochester P.D. Policy Flawed; Officer Who Fired Gun Not Negligent

The Associated Press

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- A policy Rochester police followed in a 2001 drug raid was flawed and resulted in the death of a 21-year-old man, a state Supreme Court jury has ruled.

However, the jury said Friday that the officer whose gun accidentally discharged was not negligent in the death of Vernard "Vandy" Davis because he was following department procedures.

Officer David Gebhardt fatally shot Davis in the chest during the raid. City officials argued Gebhardt's finger was not on his shotgun's trigger and that the gun discharged accidentally.

City police policy says officers should deactivate the safety catches on their shotguns when they go on raids.

Another jury is scheduled to convene April 19 to determine damages the Davis family could recover from the city.

"The city is now being held accountable for a flawed, dangerous and unsafe policy that has resulted in the death of Mr. Davis," said John Bernacki, a Davis family lawyer.

Edward Hourihan Jr., another lawyer representing Davis' family, said a flashlight mounted below the muzzle of Gebhardt's weapon forced the officer to aim the shotgun at Davis when he tried to illuminate him in a dimly lit room.

Gebhardt testified he did not feel threatened by Davis, who was unarmed.

City Municipal Attorney Michelle DiGaetano said in court that police need to have the safety off on the shotgun during a raid because of the dangerous possibilities that await them. Having to push off the shotgun safety could unnecessarily slow the police response, she said.

Rochester police have conducted 500 to 700 raids per year for the past 12 years and have had three accidental discharges, according to Linda Kingsley, the city's corporation counsel.

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