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Police videotape key part of defendants' case

LOCKPORT -- A police videotape of the arrest of at least one of the suspects in a July 17 incident that the defendants claim showed police brutality is expected to be shown in court Oct. 19.

That's the day City Judge William J. Watson will hold hearings on whether city police had probable cause to arrest the suspects following a fight on Church Street.

E. Earl Key, attorney for defendant Patricia McDowell, said he has seen the video. "It definitely helps me," he said.

He said the tape, taken by an automatic camera inside a police car, begins just as McDowell's son Timothy McDowell, 27, is forced into the police vehicle. It also apparently shows a police confrontation with Patricia McDowell, 48, that ended in her arrest.

"The videotape, we believe, is inconclusive," Assistant District Attorney Peter M. Wydysh said. "You're not able to hear any sound."

"All the more reason to have a hearing," Key shot back.

The McDowells, both of Center Street, were charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, as was Raymond E. Renouf III, 18, of Washington Street. His sister, Rhiannon R. Renouf, 22, of West Avenue, was charged only with disorderly conduct.

"Based on the videotape I've seen, I don't see how any reasonable department could have allowed that use of force," Key told Watson.

He asked Watson to order the Police Department to give him a copy of its manual on the use of force, but Watson refused. Wydysh argued it was irrelevant to whether Patricia McDowell broke the law, and Watson agreed.

Wydysh said it might have relevance to McDowell's planned civil suit against the city.

Because the police paperwork didn't actually accuse her of all the elements of the crime, Watson dismissed a disorderly conduct charge against Patricia McDowell. But police filed a new one against her Monday, charging a different subsection of the law.

Key, a former assistant district attorney, called the new charge "vindictive."

"How do you charge someone two months after the conduct . . . of the exact same conduct?" Key asked. "I think after they saw my motion, they realized the first one wasn't charged correctly."

"We didn't file it because we knew [the first one] was going to be dismissed," Police Chief Neil B. Merritt said.

Watson also ordered that Key should be allowed to examine a police Taser to measure the distance between the prongs to see if they match the burns he said Patricia McDowell has on her body.

The woman says one of the officers used the electric shock device on her; police adamantly deny that. Wydysh admitted in court that there was a Taser at the scene.

Probable cause hearings also will be held Oct. 19 for Timothy McDowell and Raymond Renouf. Rhiannon Renouf's case was postponed at least until Oct. 24 and probably well beyond that.

Her attorney, Robert Scheffer, said she is not entitled to a jury trial because she's charged only with a violation, and he wants to wait until the other cases are resolved. He said Rhiannon's defense will include a claim that the other defendants provoked the crowd of about 30.

Key said he intends to argue that police "were the aggressors."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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