(ROCHESTER, N.Y.) — Police bodycam footage from upstate New York appears to show an officer instructing a man to break into his ex-girlfriend’s home, according to the woman’s lawyer.
On Nov. 13, the man had requested assistance from the Rochester Police Department to aid in retrieving some of his belongings from the home of his ex-girlfriend, Catherine Bonner, her attorney, David Pilato, told ABC News. The man had told authorities that he lived at the home, which Bonner shares with her mother, Pilato said.
The day before, an incident occurred between the former couple that caused Bonner to accidentally break her foot, and she feared for her safety, Pilato said.
In the footage, which Pilato provided to ABC Rochester affiliate WHAM-TV, an officer instructs the man to “just go into the house” as he stands outside the front door.
The man then tells the officer that his former girlfriend has a gun. After the officer asks him if his ex is in the house, he says, “You have the right to kick the door in, if you want, to gain access,” the video shows.
“You will not be held responsible, criminally, but … you may have to pay the damage to break the door,” the officer says.
The officer then tells the man that he has a “right to be here,” suggests that the man break a pane of glass and stick his hand through to “unlock the door.”
The man then shouts into the front door, “If you don’t open the door, they gave me permission to break it.”
Another officer off camera then says, “Ma’am, can you just open up the door, please?”
“You gotta open the door,” the man says to his ex. “The cops are telling you to open the door.”
The man then goes to a side window and breaks the pane of glass using his fist, and uses his shoe to clear out the rest of the glass. As he does this, the barrel of a gun becomes visible through the window’s blinds.
All three men then scatter from the immediate vicinity of the window, and the man tells her, “Now, you’re in trouble.”
“I’m protecting my home,” the woman is heard saying.
The officers then approach the window with their weapons drawn, instructing the woman to show them her hands, and the video then shows an officer kicking in the door to gain entry to the home.
Bonner was then arrested and charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, menacing a police officer and a misdemeanor count of menacing her boyfriend, according to an indictment filed in Monroe County on Dec. 1.
The man had told the officer that he lived at the home for five months — the amount of time they’d been dating — and that Bonner had changed the locks, Pilato said. Had the officers checked the man’s driver’s license, they would have seen that his address was outside of the county, Pilato said. The two had a “typical” relationship, in which the man would stay at the home often, Pilato said.
Pilato said the man initially didn’t want to break into the home but eventually gave in to the officer’s instructions.
“For 12 minutes, they tell him over and over, ‘You have a right to do this,'” Pilato said.
At one point, the man asked the officers to put together a report so he could just go to small claims court, Pilato said. A neighbor who confirmed to police on video that the man had lived at the home for more than 10 days later told the officers that she was concerned for Bonner’s safety due to the incident that occurred the day before, Pilato said.
Bonner’s ex-boyfriend, whom Pilato declined to identify, was not charged in the incident on Nov. 13 or the incident the day before in which Bonner broke her foot, the attorney said.
A spokeswoman for the Rochester Police Department declined to comment on the pending litigation, emphasizing that the police department did not release the bodycam video and pointing ABC News to a training bulletin that was posted by the department on March 8.
The bulletin states that “employees shall not use the powers of their office to render assistance in the pursuit of matters which are strictly private or civil in nature except in those matters where they are required by law to exercise their powers or where a breach of the peace has occurred or is imminent.”
The training bulletin was posted after the department became aware of the incident, WHAM-TV reported.
Bonner appeared in court Tuesday, where a judge granted a motion to suppress the gun as evidence due to the unlawful search and involuntary search of Bonner’s home, Pilato said. This eliminated the charge for criminal possession of a weapon and could also potentially eliminate the menacing charges because the gun is an element of those charges, Pilato said.
Bonner has maintained her innocence since the incident occurred and plans to plead not guilty when her trial begins in June. She contends that the gun was never pointed at the police officer, Pilato said.
It is unclear whether the Rochester police officer whom Bonner accused of menacing was disciplined for the incident, or whether he is still on the job, WHAM reported.
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