ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — The Elmira Police Benevolent Association released a statement Wednesday regarding the Elmira police officer charged with assault in the August 2019 death of Gary Strobridge.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said her office concluded there was sufficient evidence to bring the case to a grand jury—which voted last week to indict Elmira Police Officer Eduardo Oropallo.
Police were called to Strobridge’s home on Aug. 22, 2019, as he was in the throes of a mental health crisis that involved him climbing up to his roof, hanging out of a window while screaming it was the end of the world, chasing a neighbor and punching a police officer. He was subdued with a stun gun and taken into custody.
According to the family’s civil lawsuit against Oropallo, Strobridge was noted to be delusional, agitated, anxious, and exhibiting poor judgment when he arrived at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira. Police said Strobridge’s behavior suddenly changed and he violently attacked Oropallo, causing the officers to restrain him.
The family’s lawsuit doesn’t mention an attack, alleging that Stobridge was taken to the ground by officers and handcuffed after he wandered into a hallway from an exam room where they’d left him unattended and unrestrained.
The lawsuit went on to say that Oropallo braced himself against a wall or door jamb and violently pressed his foot into Strobridge’s neck or head area, causing him to grunt. The officer then grabbed Strobridge by the hair on the back of his head and slammed his head and face into the floor twice, yelling, “Gary, stop resisting!”
Strobridge was provided an injection by medical staff and immediately became unresponsive. He was transferred to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, where he was kept on life support until he died. Police said the cause of death was determined not to be the result of Oropallo’s action in the struggle.
According to Elmira PBA President Brooks Shaw, the officers who responded to the incident did not violate any Elmira Police Department policies or procedures, used the minimal amount of force necessary, and the use of force was reasonable and justified under Article 35 of the NYS Penal Law.
The Elmira PBA stands with its officer and defends his actions on that day. Officer Oropallo’s actions were justified and met the criteria for use of force, as dictated by NYS standards. As in all criminal cases, a complete presentation of the facts needs to take place before judgment is placed upon any citizen. We strongly feel that once these facts are presented in a trial, it will show Officer Oropallo was justified in his actions. This incident has been misrepresented and this charge has nothing to do with the actual death of Mr. Strobridge. This, and other similar incidents, are an attempt to discredit police and continue the anti-police sentiment that is being felt across our nation. The Elmira PBA stands behind all of its officers and the fine job they do on a daily basis.Brooks Shaw | President, Elmira Police Benevolent Association
Following Oropallo’s arraignment, prosecutors did not seek bail. He is currently on paid administrative leave.
Shaw’s full statement can be found below: