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NY officer cleared after controversial use of force incident, woman charged with assaulting an officer

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Chris Libonati

syracuse.com

A DeWitt police officer who punched a handcuffed woman during an arrest on July 4 in Walmart was justified in his use of force, DeWitt Police Chief Chase Bilodeau said during a Thursday news conference.

Bilodeau said the use of force used by officer Rory Spain was equal to the violence of the woman, who tried to bite him.

“It is reasonable for an officer to defend himself from being bitten,” Bilodeau said.

The chief said Spain targeted an area of the woman’s neck that officers are trained to target with strikes.

Nevertheless, Spain will remain on paid administrative leave until next week when he finishes recommended retraining that stemmed from the incident.

Bilodeau said they also are reviewing when calls should trigger a response by more than two officers. He said he thought a response by more officers would’ve helped officers during the call.

The incident happened at about 4:55 p.m. July 4 at the East Syracuse Walmart on Basile Rowe.

Officers were dispatched to the store for a report of fighting among five to six people and had been told “employees were being threatened, struck in the face and that customers had also been pepper sprayed,” Pace said.

Tyreana Edmonds, the woman who was hit, faces several charges stemming from the altercation with other people in the store, police said. She also has been charged with second-degree attempted assault of a police officer for trying to bite Spain, police said.

Another woman who Edmonds identified in the video as her sister, Tajenik Byrd, has also been charged. Pace said Byrd used pepper spray during the argument with other people in the store.

According to body-worn camera footage posted by the DeWitt Police Department, a man at the entrance of Walmart directed Spain to two women the man alleged were involved in a fight.

Store surveillance shows the earlier altercation that lasts about 30 seconds. In the video’s narration, Pace said Byrd pepper sprayed another woman. Byrd can be seen pointing something in her hand at another woman in the store. The woman then covers her face and moves her children away from the area.

As Spain walked toward Edmonds, she could be seen in the footage arguing with another customer. Spain grabbed Edmonds’ arm from behind and began to handcuff her.

Byrd approached the officer and tried to pull Edmonds away.

“Get off my sister,” Byrd said.

“Leave him,” Edmonds said. “… Let him cuff me.”

As Spain tries to arrest Edmonds, another person said to the officer that Byrd had used pepper spray during an earlier altercation.

“They tried to charge my sister,” Edmonds said in response to the woman. “They jumped my sister two days ago. My sister’s a month pregnant.”

Officer Corey Buyck later swung Byrd to the ground and straddled Byrd as he handcuffed her.

Customers circled the officers and yelled at them as they tried to arrest Edmonds and Byrd. Spain eventually pulled his taser out.

As Spain tried to arrest Edmonds, she slumped to the ground and kicked a display of plastic boxes. He dragged Edmonds by her handcuffs and one leg, video shows. She turned her head to try to bite Spain, who then punched her in the face.

Edmonds was charged with:

  • Second-degree attempted assault of a police officer
  • Obstruction of governmental administration
  • Resisting arrest
  • Fourth-degree criminal mischief
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Second-degree harassment

Byrd was charged with:

  • Third-degree assault
  • Fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon
  • Endangering the welfare of a child
  • Possession of a noxious material
  • Obstruction of governmental administration
  • Resisting arrest

Both women were later released on appearance tickets.

Got a tip, comment or story idea? Contact Chris Libonati via the Signal app for encrypted messaging at 585-290-0718, by phone at the same number, by email or on Twitter.

©2021 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit syracuse.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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