Hector Santiago Calls for Prosecution of Yonkers Police Officer Who Struck Him

In a letter to the Orange County District Attorney, civil rights attorney for Hector Santiago demanded the prosecution of Yonkers Police Officer Russell Kilgore over the assault that occurred during a City Council meeting last November.

The chaotic council meeting

When Mayor Mike Spano decided to run for a fourth term, he needed the City Council to change the law for him to do it. This was the second time term limits had been extended in Yonkers for Spano. Despite the rushed and unpublicized process, residents on both sides filled the fourth floor chamber in the historic Yonkers City Hall for this consequential council vote.

Hector Santiago arrest
Hector Santiago restrained by police – YPD security footage

As the council members spoke to defend their positions on this change, the crowd became overly-animated. As both the residents and their elected representatives loudly scolded each other, a seemingly plain-clothed YPD officer physically escorted “Stop and Shake” founder Hector Santiago from the chamber. In the hallway, a physical altercation occurred, resulting in Santiago being punched in the face and thrown to the ground. At the time, Santiago’s right arm was in a sling as he was recovering from a recent shoulder surgery.

The trial of Hector Santiago

Police then arrested Hector Santiago on charges of “Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degree” and “Resisting Arrest.” Due to his local notoriety and personal connections, the Westchester DA Mimi Rocah and several judges had to recuse themselves from the case.

The prosecution of Santiago transferred to the Orange County District Attorney, David Hoovler. Over time, Santiago’s charges were dropped and ultimately reduced to a single “Disorderly Conduct” violation by the DA. On July 25th, following more than 20 appearances in White Plains City Court, Judge John P. Collins Jr. ultimately acquitted Santiago of that remaining charge. This ended the criminal proceedings against him. After the trial, Santiago made it clear he was looking for accountability. Standing outside the courtroom he said, “there are a lot more good cops than bad ones. And it’s just about holding the wrong-doers accountable.”

The redress

In January, civil rights attorney for Santiago, Leo Glickman, sent the City of Yonkers a notice of claim. This all but assured that Santiago sought civil damages for the November incident. And now, over six-weeks after Santiago’s acquittal, Glickman called on the Orange County DA to criminally prosecute Russell Kilgore as they had Santiago.

The letter sent on September 8th not only chides Hoovler for prosecuting “the victim of the crime,” but also contends that the DA knowingly promoted a lie by Det. Kilgore. In the YPD incident report, Kilgore asserts that Santiago struck him in the chest and neck area; resulting in him being jolted back. However, security footage of the incident challenges this representation. Despite the conflicting interpretations of events, the prosecution presented this evidence as fact and proof of Santiago’s misconduct; not of any misconduct by Kilgore who responded with a closed-first punch to Santiago’s face.

The Orange County DA’s response rejects any impropriety by its office. Their response further clarifies that they have no jurisdiction to investigate Kilgore. In the initial Appointment for a Special District Attorney sent by Westchester County DA Rocah, it specifies only Hector Santiago as the subject for investigation. Therefore, the Orange County DA cannot prosecute a Westchester resident for alleged crimes committed in that county.

However, the State Attorney General does have this reach. Therefore, DA Hoovler transmitted Glickman’s request to that office. There is no formal decision from the AG on this matter at this time.

As for the Yonkers Police Department, it still asserts that Kilgore’s actions were just. Echoing a previous statement, they affirm that, “We respect the ruling of the courts in this matter; however, the internal investigation into this incident revealed no wrongdoing on behalf of our Officers.”

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