By Peter Coney
“The Officer in my video earlier gave a lot of information out.”
Last week, in Rome NY, a Black woman suffered the indignity of someone spray-painting racial slurs and swastikas on her moving truck. This was only the beginning of the harassment. In the past week, several people of color in Rome have been targeted by an Ultra-nationalist and this was in no way helped by a police officer who gave information directly to the ultranationalist.
Joya Stuckman is one of two Black households that live on 1st street in Rome. Her neighbors were polite enough, but would occasionally let racial slurs slip out. She said though that in the last 4 years, her neighbors’ bigotry has increased.
Saturday, Sep 5th
Joya decided to move to a new neighborhood and rented a U-Haul truck and loaded up her things.
“I packed it all up around 9 o’clock and went to a friend’s house. Upon returning around 1 am, the first thing we noticed was “Go home nigger” written on the side of the truck with swastikas and 1488 [a white supremacist code]. That’s all I saw done to the truck at first. My friends left and I waited for the police to arrive and when they got there, they informed that the tire was slashed and that there was more graffiti written around the truck; white power, go coons, more 1488, and Hitler signs. The police took pictures and took down information but at this point they do not have a suspect.”- Joya Stuckman
Sunday, Sep 6th
Out of sympathy, concerned citizens show up to Joya’s house on 1st street to hold a rally to support her and denounce the racist attack.
No single organization held the rally. Several members of the Utica Abolitionists (a civil rights group) appeared but were not the host of the rally. They simply offered support. A local Food Truck owner, Sarita Ruiz, was present and a young woman by the name of Jasmine Millner also showed up. Ms. Millner became something of a notable figure in all of this.
Unbeknown to the people at the rally, a man by the name of John Smaldon was circling the area in his car. Smaldon is a Trump Supporter who has made clear his contempt for the people who held this rally. Later on, he would admit that he sees them as a threat that’s “ruinin our country”. He’s a proud flyer of the confederate flag and member of a militia-like organization known as the 3%’ers, commonly described as an Ultra-Nationalist group.
Of the five Rome PD patrol cars present, one of them was manned by Officer Ferdinando “Fred” A. Pacicca III. While recording live on FB, Smaldon approached Pacicca’s car and began talking with him. Smaldon deleted the video, however, a portion of the video had been saved by Sarita Ruiz, Joya Stuckman, and Jasmine Millner.
You cannot see Pacicca’s face in the video, but Millner and Ruiz have confirmed that the officer is in fact Pacicca, recognizing him by voice.
In the video, Smaldon approaches the car and immediately the officer speaks to Smaldon:
Paccica: “You know that one girl that was a little bit of an agitator. She had short black shorts on and the black….
Smaldon: “She’s the same one that was down at Dave’s Diner” [Ms. Millner was not at Dave’s Diner].
Paccica: “You know who her father is? Retired Lieutenant* Musco Millner from the State Police.”
*Note: Musco Millner achieved the rank of Captain before retiring from the State Police.
According to several witnesses who watched all of Smaldon’s live video, Pacicca began pointing out members of the rally and provided personal details, such as names and affiliations to John Smaldon. The witnesses say Pacicca named names and insulted specific members of the rally and then Pacicca told Smaldon that the members of the rally would be present at Triangle Park the following day holding another rally.
A week prior, Rome PD Officer Fred Pacicca made several extremely aggressive anti-BLM posts on his personal page. In a FB comment, Jasmine Millner questioned his ability to serve and protect the entire community given his prejudice.
During the rally, Pacicca drove up to the rally well ahead of the other patrol cars.
“He [Pacicca] decided that he was going to be the officer to show up and be intimidating at our BLM rally after openly expressing that he hates us. He pulled up and stood there intimidatingly, even though the rest of the officers were not doing that up until him showing up, and that’s when things escalated, because he was just staring me down, and I felt so uncomfortable. So, I decided at one point, because he attempted to speak to me….I declined after he initially said some terrible things….I got on the megaphone and read his public FB Posts out loud. His posts, his words. I didn’t elaborate. I said what he said. I said, ‘if you can say it on FB, then you can say it in front of these people’.”
Smaldon’s 2nd Video:
Later that day, Smaldon made another live video, this time invoking his friends to show up the next day and counter the BLM supporters.
He claimed the BLM activist had 100 people harassing an older gentleman over his 3% flag. I’m unaware what Smaldon is referring to as the protesters went there purely to support Joya Stuckman. He goes on to announce his intentions,
“When I said, ‘If they came to my town I’m gonna do something about it’ I meant it. Tomorrow’s the day. There’s gonna be no Trump. We’re not goin for Trump. We’re not goin for Tenney. We’re not goin for Back-The-Blue. We’re gonna go do what we gotta do. This has to stop. This has to stop now.”
He tells his viewers to stay alert for Sarita Ruiz, describing what she does for a living.
Smaldon made a very interesting claim towards the end of the video. He credited the information he received about the activists and the next rally to the officer in his video, the same officer identified as Pacicca.
“The Officer in my video earlier gave a lot of information out.”
This does raise concerns over a police officer, supposedly neutral, providing personal information on the protesters to a man who is an admitted enemy of said protesters.
That evening Joya and a friend went to Police Headquarters to file a complaint against Officer Pacicca and Smaldon, and to request protection from Smaldon himself. Smaldon claimed in a FB post that he was warned by the authorities against any action against the BLM activist and therefore he called off the counter-protest. According to Sarita Ruiz, Rome PD promised police presence at Triangle Park to deter any right-wing violence.
Triangle Park Monday the 7th:
Virtually everyone from the previous rally reunited at Triangle Park to demand action from the Assistant Mayor who lives across the street from the park. The activist also went to Pacicca’s home to denounce his racist actions. A neighbor of Pacicca’s insisted that the officer is not racist. The activists were not convinced.
There were several cars that drove by shouting against the BLM activist, but many others shouting their support. Of course, there was one individual who was standing 50 yards away from the protesters staring at them with something of an angry demeanor. I asked the gentleman what his opinion on all of this was and why he was there. He told me he was a cop from another town and had family in the area who could shut this down. He walked off before I could get him to elaborate.
The BLM protesters carried American flags to show their patriotism. They repeated laps around the park and chanted the usual slogans. They noticed absolutely no police presence, but also no counter-protesters.
On their final lap, a pair of two small white children greeted the BLM activists with Popsicles. One of the black protesters told the girls how much she appreciated this act of kindness on a Labor Day weekend filled with so much hate.
I called Rome Mayor Jackie Izzo’s office two days later to see what her response is to all of this.
Mayor Jackie Izzo:
“I can assure you that proper investigations are being made into the actions of officer Paccica.” She also told me that, “I certainly don’t want what happened in Rochester to happen here in Rome.”
To what extent “proper investigations” will go has yet to be seen. Though with the recent similar events occurring in Rochester, and subsequent turmoil, one would expect that the city government will try to do whatever they can to resolve this matter quickly.
This article was edited for errors 9.24.