Elmira, NY – An Elmira police officer has been indicted for second-degree assault in connection with the 2019 death of a combative suspect accused of punching an officer in the face.
“After an exhaustive investigation, we concluded that there was sufficient evidence that the crime of assault had been committed to warrant a presentation to a grand jury,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a press release on Wednesday.
“Last week, the grand jury voted, and returned an indictment against Elmira Police Officer Eduardo Oropallo on charges of Assault in the Second Degree,” James confirmed.
Officer Oropallo was arraigned on the charge on Wednesday morning, according to the attorney general’s office.
“We take this prosecution with the utmost seriousness and look forward to presenting our case in court,” James said. “All of our communities deserve justice, and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that justice is served.”
The series of events that led up to the death of 47-year-old Gary Strobridge began on Aug. 22, 2019, when Elmira police received a report that a man was on the roof of a two-story home on Horner Street behaving erratically, WETM reported.
When officers arrived at the scene, the emotionally-disturbed suspect came off of the roof “acting unusual” and started yelling and chasing his neighbor, police said.
Police said Strobridge “was clearly a danger to himself and/or others” so they attempted to take him into custody under the Mental Hygiene law, according to WETM.
But the suspect resisted their efforts and allegedly punched one of the officers in the face, resulting in a physical altercation between him and police.
One officer deployed a Taser before Strobridge was finally subdued and transported to a hospital, WETM reported.
According to police, Strobridge was initially calm while being treated at the hospital, but then his “behavior suddenly changed and he physically attacked” another Elmira police officer.
Police brawled with the combative suspect yet again, at which point Strobridge suddenly fell limp and unresponsive, WETM reported.
According to the indictment, Officer Oropallo allegedly struck the suspect’s face against the floor intentionally during the fight, causing serious injuries, the Star Gazette reported.
Strobridge received medical treatment before being transported to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, where he later died, according to WENY.
The suspect’s family sued the Elmira Police Department (EPD) and the City of Elmira in September, alleging that multiple law enforcement officers used excessive force while dealing with Strobridge, the Star Gazette reported.
The lawsuit further claimed the suspect was in the midst of a mental health crisis at the time, and alleged the officers’ use of force “directly contributed to Mr. Strobridge’s demise,” WENY reported at the time.
Officer Oropallo is the only officer who has been indicted in connection with Strobridge’s arrest so far, the Star Gazette reported.
He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.
Officer Oropallo, a Notre Dame graduate, served with the New York City Police Department and the Corning Police Department before joining the EPD in March of 2014, WENY reported at the time.
He is also a U.S. Army veteran.
Elmira City Manager Michael Collins said he could not comment on the situation and referred any questions to James’ office, according to the Star Gazette.