Newburgh mayor vows to crack down on rioters
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Newburgh city officials promised to crack down on violence after two riots in the last week connected to the police shooting of a 22-year-old man earlier this year.
"I have a fairly long fuse when it comes to getting angry but I have reached the end of my fuse," Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy said at a news conference with members of the City Council Friday at City Hall. "Whatever it takes, it's time to get tough on people who break the law."
Kennedy urged city residents to come together with officials to address problems between police and residents and promised more police control of any future rallies or protests in the city.
The street riots erupted early Saturday morning and again on Monday night as police battled angry crowds.
The initial incident occurred when police tried to break up a street fight that spilled out of a large house party on Liberty Street, officials said.
Police trying to make arrests were surrounded by about 60 angry young people and were threatened by an unidentified teenage member of the Lembhard family, authorities said. One member of the crowd tried to grab an officer's gun during the melee, police said.
Michael Lembhard, 22, was shot and killed by Newburgh police in March after police chased him into a building and he lunged at them with a knife, police said. An Orange County grand jury in July declined to indict any of the officers.
On Monday night, another riot broke out on Liberty Street with protesters throwing bricks and bottles at police. Lembhard's younger brother, Donald, was arrested after he allegedly threw a brick at police, officials said.
Kennedy said images of street riots hamstring efforts to revitalize the downtrodden Hudson River city, which has been beset for years by drug and crime problems as manufacturing jobs have dried up and industries have withdrawn.
"We cannot bring new companies into this city, create new jobs which everyone is trying to do when they see on the news that there is (un)rest, there is rioting," she said.
Police Chief Michael Ferrara said his 71-member force does not want confrontations with residents.
"City of Newburgh officers take risks every day," he said. "People need to feel safe in our city."
Juanita King, a cousin of Michael Lembhard, said her family was unfairly being singled out for the city's problems.
"They want to blame the Lembhards for everything," she said. "The truth is problems with the police existed long before anyone in my family got involved."
Lillie Howard, 72, a lifelong Newburgh resident who ran an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2007, said the city needs to bring in the federal Department of Justice to look into how police deal with city residents.
"It's not the whole department but it only takes a few bad apples for the whole department to be out of control," she said.