The Office of Children and Family Services says it is conducting an “internal investigation” into its employee Robert Spinelli, who was videotaped apparently trying to drive his car through a crowd of protesters the afternoon of August 21 on River Street in Troy.
Spinelli has asserted multiple times that the incident occurred because he was trying to get to work on that Friday evening. A spokesperson for OCFS declined to state whether Spinelli was scheduled to work that evening, only saying an internal investigation is underway.
Cameras captured Spinelli revving the engine of his black Dodge Challenger sporting the license plate DEVIL, spinning his tires and then accelerating through a group of protesters. Protesters claim the action left two of their group injured; one claims to have been clipped in the leg by the side of the car and the other says their hand was smashed by Spinelli’s side mirror.
“I said, ‘Can you please move out of the road? I’m trying to go to work.’ I did a power break to smoke the tires on my car hoping they would run and get out of the road,” Spinelli told News Channel 6, which filmed the incident. Spinelli did not return a request for comment from this publication.
Its unclear whether the Troy PD is still investigating the incident as of right now the only person it is clear faces legal trouble is activist Ken Zeoli from Equality for Troy. The Troy Police Department failed to respond to a request for comment.
Multiple protesters say Spinelli approached them in his car angrily spewing obscenities and threatening to run them over and get out to beat them up if they didn’t move. They suggested he turn around or simply wait for them to get out of the road.
Spinelli’s Facebook page displayed a number of pictures of the Punisher motorcycle club, which is known for its close ties to and celebration of law enforcement and its aggressive support of the Second Amendment. His page also displays Thin Blue Line patches. Those pictures have been removed since the incident in question.
When Spinelli took off through the crowd someone used pepper spray. Then Spinelli pulled over next to Troy Police Officers, who told him he’d done nothing wrong. That sparked outcry from protesters, and eventually the windshield of the Challenger was smashed by a thrown object. Its unclear who threw it. Troy PD later said they detained Spinelli for his safety.
Zeoli the activist whose arrest for seeking a complaint form at the State St. precinct set off protests earlier in the day is charged with doing $777 worth of damages to Spinelli’s Challenger and could face prison time if a judge decides he has violated his probation.
Protesters say that while some of their group reacted violently to Spinelli’s behavior Zeoli did not. They see his arrest as retribution or an attempt by Troy PD to put more legal pressure on Zeoli.
Spinelli not only has not been charged for his involvement in the incident but he’s launched a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $10,000 for car repairs and legal fees.
So far seven donors have donated a total of $451.
”On August 21, 2020, Robert was driving to work in Troy, NY, when a mob of BLM and Antifa rioters surrounded his car and attacked him. Rioters slashed Rob’s tires, smashed his windshield and kicked in his door,” begins the description of the fundraiser Spinelli launched himself.
One donor who gave $81 commented, “Do illegal shit and pay up suckers. Talk shit get hit.”
Zeoli’s defense attorney, Matt Toporowski, says it is stunning that Spinelli faces no charges for the incident. “He has not been charged for videotaped conduct that clearly caused reckless endangerment. The fact that Spinelli is a victim and Keni has been falsely charged with damaging Spinelli’s car is an example of what’s wrong with our justice system. His GoFundMe page is as legit as Steve Bannon’s fund the wall page.”