Rochester Man Attacked, Beaten by Police in Case of Mistaken Identity Sues City, Convicted Officer and Others in Department

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A Rochester, New York, man left battered and bloody after his arrest by police last year has now sued the city, the officer convicted in his assault and other members of the City of Rochester Police Department.

Christopher Pate filed the lawsuit Monday, alleging he was beaten during a wrongful arrest in May 2018, the Democrat and Chronicle reported. Then-officer Michael Sippel was convicted of third-degree assault in the incident, and subsequently booted from the force.

He’s currently awaiting sentencing in the case.

Christopher Pate
Christopher Pate is suing for assault and battery, as well as for wrongful arrest after being brutally assaulted by a Rochester police officer in a case of mistaken identity. (Photo: WHEC /video screenshot)

The complaint claims Sippel beat, tased and handcuffed the Rochester man after mistaking him for a wanted burglary suspect. This was after Pate presented his ID to police, proving he wasn’t the man they were looking for.

Much of the incident was captured on officer body camera video, showing the moment Sippel and his partner, Spenser McAvoy, approached Pate as he walked on Bloss Street. In the clip, Pate walks away when first approached by police but then provides his identification to McAvoy. That’s when Sippel advances toward the misidentified man after McAvoy steps aside.

Words are exchanged and a tussle ensues, with Pate being shocked with a taser and hit with such force that he suffers a facial fracture.

After realizing they have the wrong guy, Sippel accuses Pate, who’s African-American, of trying to play the race card. 

“He’s freakin’ so stupid,” the officer is heard saying on video. “Everybody wants to think that the white cops are after the Black guys. Well, you look like a guy on a wanted board. God damn it!”

“Please, please, please,” Pate says from the backseat of the cruiser.

Officers ultimately charged the man for obstructing traffic and jaywalking after he crossed the street to avoid police, in addition to a charge for resisting arrest. Both counts were later dropped.

According to the lawsuit, Sippel was later caught on video bragging that he’d “blasted my hand off on [Pate’s] head,” then adding with a chuckle: “wrong guy!”

The suit further alleges that “while Pate laid on a hospital bed, officers remained in the room; casual conversation and jokes were made by the officers related to Pate’s attire, his shoe size, how deep the Taser prongs embedded in his skin and other topics.”

The Rochester man is now suing officers for assault and battery, as well as wrongful arrest in the incident, during which he alleges he was punched,  kicked and tased. The complaint also accuses police of falsifying the arrest report with trumped up charges.  

The officers’ actions were largely condemned by city leaders, including Mayor Lovely Warren and former Police Chief Michael Ciminelli, who agreed that Pate shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place.

Both McAvoy and Sippel, who the lawsuit states has a “pattern of conduct” that includes use of force and false arrest, are named as defendants. Sippel’s sentencing hearing has been set for Aug. 15.

The city declined to comment on the pending litigation. 

City of Rochester Police didn’t return requests for comment.

Watch more in the clip below.

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