Newburgh City Councilman Omari Shakur was under fire this week after release of a video in which he launched a profanity-laced tirade against a Newburgh Police Officer during a traffic stop last week.
The incident took place last Tuesday morning and was captured on body worn cameras. Shortly after the media statement was released, the footage from the incident went viral on the internet.
In the 25-minute video Shakur sits in a car while being addressed by officers after being pulled over on Carpenter Avenue for a traffic violation. During the confrontation, Shakur is asked for his license and registration by an officer.
“I’m not giving you nothing,” says Shakur. “F**cking arrest me.”
In the video, the detective that made initial contact explains that he came upon Shakur in a stopped vehicle. The detective says when he beeped his horn, Shakur did not respond.
At one-point Shakur says to the detective, “I’m your f**cking boss.”
After its release the video has drawn mixed feelings all over the city, and even in other parts of the Hudson Valley.
Shakur explained last Friday night that the incident was a traffic stop and he was on official business. He said that the detective who pulled up behind him was someone with whom he had many prior interactions.
“I told him I was on official business right now, and I’m his boss,” said Shakur. “He got mad and he called backup, and they surrounded my car with guns. I felt threatened and they came there to kill me.”
According to Shakur, the footage didn’t depict the whole situation. Allegedly, the detective said “don’t make this end up like your son.” Shakur said the detective threatened him by bringing up his son, Antonio Bryant. Bryant died in 2006, after being killed in an incident involving the police.
Shakur said he only received a ticket for parking on the pavement.
According to City of Newburgh Police Chief Doug Solomon, the time before the body worn camera footage wasn’t shown because the detective who initiated the contact wasn’t wearing a body camera. “The footage started when an officer showed up on the scene who had a body camera,” said Solomon on Monday.
“You stopped traffic for an hour, surrounded my car with basically like a swat team,” laughed Shakur in disbelief. “A councilman really?”
Shakur said that he was on Carpenter Avenue to speak to a constituent about a concern they had over the police.
“If I threatened an officer, why was I not arrested?”
Shakur accused the involved officers from Tuesday of being “out of control.”
“This was some officers who basically threatened my life,” said Shakur. “It looked like they planned this.”
“We hold our Police Officers and elected Officials to the highest of standards and this is a prime example of gross deviation from what the residents and employees of the City of Newburgh expect from their elected officials,” said the Police Superior Officers Association [PSOA] in a media statement released Friday.
“I think the video speaks for itself,” said Solomon. “His actions were clearly inappropriate. My officers showed a great deal of poise and restraint, which they do every day. We’re always confronted with situations similar to this on a daily basis. My officers, they conduct themselves in a totally professional manner.” Solomon said that the good conduct of the police force often goes unnoticed.
This past Saturday, Shakur released an apology statement on Facebook.
“The reaction displayed is not who I am and felt short of the love I feel amongst my constituents in Newburgh and of the leadership I want to represent,” wrote Shakur. He said that he has asked for an independent investigation, and that he still hopes to repair the relationship between the police and the community.
In his statement, read aloud at Monday’s City Council meeting, Shakur maintained that there were approximately 15 minutes of interaction with an undercover police detective that was not captured on video. During that interaction, he said “I was subjected to direct and personal harassment that were deeply disrespectful to me, my deceased son and my family.”
The incident is currently being investigated by a third-party agency. Interviews will be conducted, and the investigation’s results will be given to the mayor, city council, corporation counsel, and city manager. Decisions will be made off of the results.
“As far as the time frames go,” said Solomon. “You know, when the initial contact occurred and when the officer with the camera got there; that will all come up when the investigation is concluded.”
Since the incident, social media has been flooded with comments from residents weighing in on Shakur’s conduct. On Monday, old footage re-emerged on social media of Shakur engaging in profanity directed at police officers.
The flood continued at Monday’s city council meeting, as city residents and residents of surrounding areas filled city hall to maximum capacity. Residents attended the city hall meeting in anticipation of the council officially addressing the allegations against Shakur.
Although most residents did not agree with Shakur’s conduct, some marked the situation as a “teachable moment,” and asked for unity.
“We all are human and everybody makes mistakes,” said Fannett Tallegrand. “The same way that a lot of you are angered and offended by his actions [and] what you heard. The people that support him and stand behind him, we’re not saying that it was right.”
Tallegrand said that Shakur’s supporters don’t necessarily support the way he conducted himself in the video.
“It hurts,” said Tallegrand over the social media backlash against Shakur and his supporters.
“He’s the only official that I know of that we see after hours,” said Tallegrand. She proceeded to applaud the good things Shakur has done in the community.
“I wanted to stand up and say ‘I am so proud of you,’” said Tallegrand as tears fell down her face. While Tallegrand spoke, Shakur covered his face, visibly moved by her words.
Although a fair share of Shakur supporters spoke on Monday night, he still had critics.
“We are to speak to each other in a respectful way,” said Michele Basch, owner of The Wherehouse. “We are to use a language with each other that shows respect, and that is requested by all.”
Basch criticized Shakur for setting a bad example for the city’s youth; “that voice was shattered, that voice was destroyed.”