SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Day one when he’s inaugurated, Saratoga Public Safety Commissioner-elect Jim Montagnino says his door and his ears will be open to the public. Behind door number one, prioritizing a closer look at the 2013 death of Darryl Mount.
“This is not going to happen again, and by this I mean a situation where the people who are in charge turn a deaf ear to request for official investigations,” Montagnino promises in an interview with NEWS10 ABC’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Mount slipped into a coma and later died after a police chase on August 31, 2013 when officers allege he fell off a set of scaffolding. Mount’s family has long disputed that claim, and community members have consistently called for an inquiry into possible police brutality after a forensic pathologist ruled in 2014 Mount’s injuries were not consistent with a fall.
Montagnino says on January 1, he will release a full report on the evidence and laws that apply to Mount’s case. He says he hopes to use his experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney to help the public better understand the judicial process.
“There is enough information that would allow a reasonable, objective person to read the information for themselves and draw their own conclusions as to what happened that night,” he says.
“What’s most important is to take the facts themselves and lay them out over the applicable law and the applicable procedures, allowing the reader to draw the conclusions as to what did the law allow here, were the actions of the various individuals consistent with the law, and more than simply what happened, the question of well was what happened correct, legally speaking?” he further explains.
Saratoga Black Lives Matter leader Lexis Figuereo has led the charge calling for a closer look at Mount’s case, most notably and recently during protests and community events in 2020. He’s hopeful new leadership will mean new attitudes towards answering whether Mount may have actually been beaten by police and why then-Police Chief Greg Veitch lied about starting an investigation. Veitch had said to reporters an internal investigation had been launched after Mount’s death, but later admitted under oath during a deposition that he never did.
“There’s been no conversations. Everything‘s been pretty much we’ve been muted, and silence anytime we bring up Darryl Mount, it’s like, you know, we can’t talk about that,” Figuereo says.
Montagnino says he’s also open to initiating a grand jury investigation, with the help of other Saratoga city and county bodies.
“The only entity that has the authority to convene a grand jury would be the district attorney. There has been some preliminary conversations about whether the city council would pass a resolution that would formally ask the DA to do an investigation,” he says.
However until any action is taken, District Attorney Karen Heggen says it would be inappropriate to comment on what might or might not happen. Figuereo says Black Lives Matter and the community just hope the newly elected officials stick to their word.
“We are hoping to actually make some real change in our community and have the council and the city be a part of it. To be able to work together, that’s what we’ve been wanting. That’s what we’ve been fighting for,” Figuereo says.
“He’s a part of our community, plain and simple. It didn’t matter who it was at the end of the day. If we hear any stories of any misconduct, or even alleged misconduct when it comes down to police brutality, we’re going to look into it,” he continues. “In order to have any kind of relationship at all with the community, the police would have to have accountability and transparency with us. That’s plain and simple. We, as members of the public, are held accountable when crimes are committed by community members. The police should be held to the same standard if not an even higher standard because they’re the police. They are trained to keep us safe and they’re supposed to be here for public safety, right? So if they mess up, they should be held to a standard.”