Elmira Police Officer Recounts Incident Involving Gary Strobridge
ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) -- The trial continued Friday for an Elmira Police officer charged with assault in connection to an Elmira man in 2019.
Officer Eduardo Oropallo is on trial on a charge of second degree assault following an investigation by the New York State Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case. Oropallo is accused of hitting Gary Strobridge's face against the floor at St. Joseph's Hospital in Elmira "with intent to cause physical injury", according to the AG's office.
Two Elmira Police Officers took to the stand Friday to testify about what happened on the night of August 22nd, 2019.
Two Elmira police officers testified in court April 22nd. The first was Joseph Linehan, who was a patrol officer who responded to the scene on August 22, 2019 the night Gary Strobridge was taken into custody. The second witness was Captain Kristen Thorne, who conducts the Elmira Police department's defense training.
During Linehan’s testimony, he recounted the night Strobridge was taken into custody.
When Linehan arrived on the scene, he said Strobridge was on top of his house on Horner Street, throwing roofing at him and other EPD officers at the scene. At this time, Linehan said he did not feel threatened and stated that he did not feel Strobridge was homicidal or suicidal while he was on top of the house. Linehan testified that Strobridge was making allusions that he was God.
Linehan recalled calling mental health services to the scene.
According to Linehan, the situation escalated when Strobridge made his way down from the roof and started following a female down the sidewalk. Initially, officers had no concerns but Linehan recalled Strobridge making derogatory comments towards the woman as he followed her towards her home. When Elmira police intervened, Linehan recalled being struck in the side of the head during a physical struggle with Strobridge. During that time, Linehan said his body camera became dislodged.
Other body camera footage from the incident shows Strobridge being tased and tackled to the ground by multiple officers outside of his home. Linehan testified that some of the bruising on Strobridge's body was a result of being tased during the altercation.
As Linehan's testimony continued, the focus of the questioning then shifted to the altercation that took place in the hospital between several Elmira Police officers and one Arnot Health security guard at St. Joseph's Hospital. Linehan said he was guarding the door while Officer Eduardo Oropallo was in the hospital room with Strobridge. Linehan explained that Oropallo was talking calmly to Strobridge, trying to encourage him to cooperate with the medical staff.
At the hospital, Linehan said Strobridge was not handcuffed and at one point he recalls Strobridge’s demeanor changed. He testified that Strobridge made his way to the corner of the hospital room, "crouched in the corner like he was seeing something that wasn't there", and sprinted at officer Eduardo Oropallo. During this altercation there were three Elmira Police officers present as well as one Arnot Health security guard.
Linehan then said for about 20-30 seconds officers struggled to get Strobridge to the ground. He recalled the officers as well as Strobridge, falling to the floor without bracing for impact and said Strobridge fell belly first.
Body camera footage presented in court then showed Oropallo’s right arm lodged underneath Strobridge’s body on the floor.
Linehan said while on the ground, Oropallo struck Strobridge in the face multiple times and also testified that Linehan had also struck Strobridge in the face multiple times at various points while they attempted to restrain him. Linehan explained that striking to the face is a tactic with the goal of putting a subject in a defensive stance. He said even after the altercation, Strobridge was trying to get up off the floor.
The second officer called to the stand was Captain Kristen Thorne, who testified that he conducts defense training for the Elmira Police department, as well as serves as the SWAT Team Commander. Thorne was not present at either location during the incidents involving Strobridge and the officers.
During Captain Thorne's testimony, he said that striking is an acceptable defensive tactic. After reviewing body camera footage from the hospital on August 22nd, 2019 he testified that he agreed that Oropallo reacted appropriately in the situation.
Body camera footage from the hospital showed a large pool of blood on the hospital floor. Under questioning from the prosecution, Officer Linehan testified that a nurse asked that Strobridge's face be moved out of the pool of blood, and he be moved to a different room following the altercation.
During the prosecution's questioning of Captain Thorne, he was asked if Elmira Police officer, Amari Hadlock, sustained any injuries during the struggle, as she was holding onto Strobridge’s legs and his reply was ‘"not that I know of."
Court adjourned for the weekend around 3:30PM Friday. Testimony will resume Monday morning.