Key findings from series on Silvon Simmons, who was shot by Rochester police
Reactions from police and defendant, Silvon Simmons, after the judge reversed charges accusing him of shooting at a Rochester police officer. (Jan. 11, 2018)
ROCHESTER, NY ¡ª The man who was shot by a Rochester police officer in 2016 in what police alleged was a gunfire exchange, is now the subject of a three-part investigative series.
Reuters published a three-part narrative on the?April?2016 shooting of Silvon Simmons and its aftermath.?Reporters referenced numerous police reports and court documents, interviewed Simmons, his family, his lawyer and many others.
Here's what you need to know about the Reuters report, called "Shots in the Dark."
What happened when?Rochester police shot Silvon Simmons?
A patrol officer for the Rochester Police Department,?Joseph Ferrigno, shot Simmons three times from behind. Ferringo, who was 34 at the time, insisted that Simmons, then 33,?fired first. He reported finding a 9mm Ruger pistol several feet from where Simmons lay bleeding.
Ferringo had followed the car Simmons was riding in on April 1, 2016, as the car was same model driven by a man suspected of threatening a woman with a gun several days earlier.
Simmons has maintained he ran toward his home because police shone a bright spotlight on the car and he didn't realize who was pursuing him. He told?Reuters that?he was terrified by the silhouette that emerged, unaware that the man was a police officer. He simply saw?someone?charging toward him, gun in hand.
Ferrigno claimed he ordered the occupants to remain in the car, and reacted when the passenger ran. He fired multiple times, saying he saw a white flash and heard a loud bang.
Simmons woke up hospitalized and on a ventilator. He had suffered severe injuries as a result of the gunshots.?He?was shocked when he was arrested since was the person who had been shot,?the article read.
The Reuters article includes a narrative of what happened?with Ferrigno's account and Simmons' point of view.??
[Story continues after photo gallery]
What jurors said about Simmons' conviction and acquittal
Simmons spent?18 months in jail before his jury trial in October 2017. He refused a plea agreement and?rejected?a 15-year sentence, risking life in prison. Simmons?was ultimately acquitted of three of the four felony charges he faced, including attempted aggravated murder for the accusation that he shot at Ferrigno.
After the two-week-long trial and four days of deliberation, Simmons?was convicted of a felony weapons possession charge.
Three months later, at what was set to be Simmons' sentencing, a Monroe County Court judge reversed the criminal conviction.?Judge Christopher Ciaccio?ruled that the ShotSpotter evidence?¡ª audio recordings from sensors near the crime scenes?¡ª was likely central to the jury's one conviction but?was not reliable as scientific proof.
According to the Reuters article, jurors told reporters that?the gun possession verdict was a compromise to help Simmons avoid a worse fate. In part, they were concerned the judge would declare a mistrial and that another jury could convict him.
The article read: "When deliberations began, they said, the jury was split roughly along racial lines over whether Simmons, a Black man,?had tried to kill Ferrigno, a white officer."
"Ultimately, the jurors said, they didn¡¯t believe Simmons had fired at the cop. But they were confused about the origins of the gun that officers said they found near Simmons."
It remains?unknown how the gun came to rest near Simmons and who last handled the gun.?
Police said they found a gun at the scene. However, no fingerprints or DNA on the gun connected the firearm with Simmons, and neither he nor his clothes were tested for gunshot residue.
Impact of the Simmons case on police accountability
Figuring prominently in the report is the city¡¯s efforts over the years at independent or civilian oversight of its police department. The latest effort seeks to grant a nine-member board disciplinary authority over officers up to and including the chief.
The police union has sued and a judge stripped the board of that powers. City Council appealed, with the case headed back to court in early December.
The NYCLU weighed in last Friday. writing in a court filing:
¡°Calls for such reforms are growing throughout New York State, and the resolution of this case will have a profound impact on movements for police accountability in places like Syracuse Kingston, Albany, New York City, and others, where communities and lawmakers are weighing proposals for strengthening and empowering police oversight agencies. Local Law No. 2 was ahead of this curve in Rochester, but looking ahead the reforms it enacted will be vital to the public interest in providing for independent and meaningful oversight of police across New York State.¡±
What role did Rochester's police union play in the Simmons case?
Much of the three-part narrative is devoted to the role the Rochester Locust Club, RPD's police union, played in the Simmons case as well as the union's role in disciplinary matters.
In the Reuters article, sources contend that?the union?"essentially controlled how discipline was handled through its contract with the city."
¡°Police policing police is?codified,¡± the article read. ¡°Lives can be ruined by a single decision of a police officer. Yet the police are not accountable to the public who pay their salaries.¡±?
The article also includes excerpts from Ferrigno's interview with two RPD sergeants?to determine if he had violated departmental policies.
What's next in Silvon Simmons' lawsuit against the police?
Simmons has filed a lawsuit against the Rochester Police Department, alleging that the?department fabricated evidence to cover up Ferrigno¡¯s mistake.
"In response, city attorneys denied the allegations and called Ferrigno¡¯s conduct 'justified under the circumstances'?and 'in accordance with the requirements of the law,'" the article read. The lawsuit?is pending.
In the meantime, the Reuters article notes that?Ferrigno was sidelined from his patrol job by post-traumatic stress and has applied for a medical retirement.
Both Simmons and Ferrigno are suffering lasting consequences and fear retaliation, the article read.
Includes reporting by staff writers Brian Sharp and Gary Craig.
Contact Victoria Freile?at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on?Twitter @vfreile?and Instagram @vfreile.?This coverage is only possible with support from our readers.??