A New York man says he plans to sue the Saratoga Springs Police Department after he was sprayed with pepper spray during a traffic stop.
WNYT News reports 35-year-old Adam Rupeka, of Troy, videotaped the stop, initiated by Officer Nathan Baker, on Saturday.
In the video (shown below) Baker can be seen spraying Rupeka with the chemical irritant after Rupeka refuses to hand over his license and registration before being told why he was pulled over.
According to The Saratogian, Rupeka was pulled over for giving the officer the middle finger gesture. Although the gesture is not seen in the video, Rupeka does not dispute doing it.
A blog post from the Albany Times Union indicates Rupeka flew the gesture in order to test how police would react. He claims he was well within his rights doing so, and, according to The Saratogian, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agrees. The court ruled in 2013 that the middle finger does not warrant arrest.
Only one of Rupeka’s two cameras captured both the audio and the video of the exchange.
“Hello, license and registration,” Baker can be heard saying in the recently released video as he walks up to Rupeka’s car.
“Uh, what are you pulling me over for?” Rupeka responds.
“I’ll be glad to tell you as soon as you give me your information,” Baker replies.
Rupeka declines again, saying he first wants to be told why he was stopped. Baker then asks him to step out of his vehicle, a request Rupeka also declines to follow.
Baker then tells him he is under arrest for disorderly conduct as he removes an aerosol can from his belt. As Rupeka begins to say something else, Baker sprays him with the contents of the can, and can then be seen grabbing Rupeka’s arm, twisting it, and trying to open the car door.
Rupeka was arrested and charged with obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest, not disorderly conduct. He was also ticketed for having an obstructed view.
The pepper spray, he said, landed him in the hospital, and he had to pay $153 to get his car back after police had it towed.
Rupeka told WNYT he has hired Jones Law Firm of Troy and plans to sue.
He said he didn’t do anything wrong and the officer was more likely reacting to the rude gesture and the bumper stickers on his car — one of which promotes the website and organization called CopBlock.org, and another that reads “Film the Police.”
Rupeka said suing the department is the only to make his point about police using excessive force.
“What he did is completely out of line,” he told WNYT. “Having the public made aware is one thing, but unless they're made to pay, they're going to keep doing it. It's not going to stop.”
Saratoga Springs Police Chief Gregory Veitch said in a statement that Baker has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into the incident.
“While I understand the concerns that people may have regarding what is depicted on the video, a thorough investigation of the entire incident may take some time,” the statement read.
“We will make every effort to keep the public informed to the extent that we are legally able to do so,” Veitch added. “I believe that it is more important to come to a correct, rather than a rushed resolution to this matter.”
Rupeka is scheduled to be arraigned on his charges Thursday.
Photo Credit: Screenshot from YouTube