RPD officer's advice leads to violent encounter
Rochester, N.Y. (13WHAM) - Back in November, a man went to his ex-girlfriend's Genesee Park Blvd. home to get some of his belongings. That home is where his ex-girlfriend, Catherine Bonner, lived with her mother.
Bonner's attorney, David Pilato, says the two had a bad fight the night before, and she ended up breaking her foot. Pilato says she had been a victim of domestic abuse in the past.
When her ex-boyfriend came back for his things, he couldn't get in, so he called the police. They responded, with body cameras rolling.
Pilato provided 13WHAM with the bodycam footage recorded from RPD officer Korey McNees, one of the responding officers.
His body camera picked up Bonner yelling through the door that she didn't want to open up, because she didn't feel safe with her ex-boyfriend around.
Throughout the video, McNees can be heard several times advising the ex-boyfriend to break in, saying he was within his rights to do so. But he appears hesitant.
At one point, the man can be heard asking, “Will you guys give me a report, saying I tried to get them and I can take it small claims court?"
McNees insisted the man could break in, saying he couldn't be held criminally responsible, and adding he may have to pay for the cleanup costs.
At one point, the officer can be heard saying, "If you can break a window glass, it’s cheaper to repair. You can gain entry anyway you want, and you won’t be held (criminally) accountable."
The man can be heard telling police he didn't get his mail there, but he'd been staying there for about five months.
McNees confirmed with a neighbor, asking her:
Officer McNees: “Do you live here?"
Officer McNees: Can you confirm he lives here?
Neighbor: “Yes he does.”
Officer McNees: “How long has lived here? More than ten days?”
Neighbor: “More than ten days.”
Officer McNees: “That’s all I need to hear.”
"There would’ve had to be due diligence to find out before we say, ‘Go ahead, break in,'" said Pilato.
The man finally gives in, and breaks a window with his hand, later using a shoe to clear the remaining shards. Moments later, he's confronted with a barrel of a 9mm rifle, held by Bonner.
The video shows Bonner saying she is trying to protect her home. Police officers on scene can be heard yelling at her, demanding she put the gun down.
She then appears to pull the gun back inside. Officers soon forced their way in and arrested Bonner.
"She did not resist," said Pilato. "They had her gunpoint, they had her ‘prone out on the ground’ at gunpoint, and they handcuff her."
Pilato says the home is actually in Bonner's mother's name.
RPD says it became aware of the incident involving McNees back in March, and that's when the department issued a new police training bulletin on how officers should act in a similar situation.
A portion of that bulletin says, "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 to exercise their powers or where a breach of the peace has occurred or is imminent."
Police couldn't say if McNees was ever disciplined, but say he's still on the job.
Bonner is charged with criminal possession of a weapon, menacing a police officer, and menacing her boyfriend. Pilato says Bonner could spend up to three-and-a-half years behind bars on the menacing a police officer charge.
She's due in court May 22. It's unclear if Bonner's ex ever faced any charges.