Former Rochester, NY Police Captain Michael Leach Who Shot and Killed an Innocent Woman, Kills His Own Son

Published On July 29, 2012 | By Davy V. | Articles

By Davy V.

On November 11, 1975, 18 year old Denise Hawkins was running from her abusive boyfriend down a Rochester, NY street when a 22 year old Rochester, NY Police officer named Michael Leach shot her dead.

Leach, the son of former Rochester, NY Police Chief Delmar Leach, stated that Hawkins had a knife in her hand.

Denise Hawkins’ death was met with an outcry for justice from the community in Rochester, NY for several reasons.

First, because she was an African American shot by a white police officer.

Second, because she was a woman.

Despite demands from community activists in Rochester, such as the late Rev. Raymond Graves, Rochester Police officer Michael Leach was cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of Denise Hawkins, and her killing was found to be justified.

And, as is usually the case after a Rochester Police officer shoots and kills an innocent person, Rochester, NY Police officer Michael Leach was promoted to Captain.

Michael Leach retired from the Rochester, NY Police department in 2001.

If the name Michael Leach sounds familiar, it should.

You see, on Saturday July 21, 2012 Leach shot and killed his own son at the Clark’s Beach Hotel in Old Forge, NY.

New York State Police say that Michael Leach, 59 mistook his son, Matthew Leach, 37, for an intruder, before shooting him once in the back.

According to New York State Police, Michael Leach, now a part time Perry, NY Police officer, shot and killed his son with his .45 caliber Glock handgun, when his son entered the motel room they both shared.

The Leach’s were part of a motorcycle group that stays at the Clark’s Beach motel every couple of years.

Dan Rivet, owner of the motel said “For some reason, nobody knows why, his father whether he was having a nightmare or whatever he had his service revolver apparently in his room next to his bedside and he thought he was an intruder and shot him once in the back.”

As a filmmaker, writer and activist exposing police misconduct, I’m used to covering cases where police officers kill an innocent person.

In my more than 15 year career, this is the first time I have covered a story where the victim is not a stranger to the police officer, but they’re actually a family member.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Or is it?

Some would argue that actually Michael Leach’s training and learned behavior as a Rochester, NY Police officer, and the fact that he had previously killed an innocent person, had alot to do with his shooting and killing his own son.

I think there is something here that law enforcement would never want to address or in any way mention, and that is a certain state of mind that police officers have, where they are overzealous, trigger happy and overreact.

And I think that Michael Leach has a history of this.

And sadly, I believe it is exactly what led to Matthew Leach being senselessly killed by his own father.

Police officers are trained to shoot to kill, not shoot to wound, or shoot to disable.

In my work over the years, I have talked about what law enforcement refers to as “Center mass”, that area just below the neck and just above the waist.

It is this area of the body that police officers are trained to shoot at for a couple of reasons.

First, because it is the broadest part of the body, therefore it is an area which would most likely guarantee a “sure hit.”

But perhaps more interesting, is that “center mass” is the area of the body where a shot is most likely to cause death, hence the “shoot to kill” training.

And it is that same area where Michael Leach shot his own son.

Except, I do find it disturbing that Matthew Leach was shot in the back, I mean, we now know that it wasn’t an intruder, and that in fact it was Leach’s own son, but one can’t help but wonder, what if it had been an intruder, would shooting someone in the back be justified?

Again, I understand perhaps Michael Leach really thought it was an intruder breaking into his motel room.

But if a person has their back to you, where is there a threat?

And if a person has their back to you, where would there be a need to use deadly force?

Certainly I feel these are important questions which need to be answered.

I hope that the New York State Police do not in any way, shape or form give any favoritism to Michael Leach as a fellow law enforcement officer.

I hope they conduct a complete and thorough investigation.

I guess in a way it is ironic, that 37 years ago, just as Matthew Leach was being born, his father, a young, overzealous, trigger happy cop shot and killed an innocent woman who was actually running for help, and now Michael Leach, overreacts, is trigger happy, and shoots his own son in the back, killing him.

Sadly, the Rochester, NY Police department taught Michael Leach well.

They taught him to shoot to kill.

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About The Author

Davy V. is a Cuban-American Filmmaker, Video Producer, Photographer and Freelance Writer, best known for using the power of video and film to expose Police Brutality, Corruption and Misconduct.The son of the late Mario Vara, a community activist who for years fought against Police Brutality and Misconduct in Rochester, New York, Davy V. got his start in Television and Video by tagging along and working camera for his father's cable access television show, "La Voz Del Pueblo" (The Voice of The People).Davy V. later went on to produce and host "KEEP IT ON THE REEL", a cable access TV show with a mix of Hip Hop as well as issues affecting African-Americans and Latinos in Rochester, NY, such as Police Brutality and Misconduct. Some guests on the show included Treach, KayGee and Vinnie of Naughty by Nature, Method Man, Funkdoobiest, Da Youngstas, and the Rottin' Razkals.Davy V. won the U.S. ACM Video Festival Award for his Documentary, "R.P.D. EXPOSED!" about the Rochester, New York Police Department and their long history of misconduct, corruption and unnecessary killings of unarmed innocent citizens. "R.P.D. EXPOSED!" and Davy V.'s follow up, "R.P.D.: Badges of DISHONOR, CORRUPTION and MURDER!" were both screened at the National Hip Hop Political Convention at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey.Davy V.'s work has been featured in publications such as THE SOURCE Hip Hop Magazine, URBAN AMERICA Magazine, The Ave. Magazine, Insider Magazine, La Voz Newspaper, Minority Reporter Newspaper, CNY LATINO Newspaper, DOWN Magazine, as well as on television news stations, and programs such as CNN and Inside Edition.In addition to his freelance writing, Davy V. also writes a monthly Op/Ed Column for LA VOZ Magazine and Minority Reporter Newspaper.In June 2012, Davy V. joined Cop Block as a regular contributor.
  • donnie devine

    as a then 18 year old intern activist i personally remember this outright community murder as well as many others by the Rochester Police Department . it was November of 1975 as i had been told by the now late rev graves and that a young African American woman was shot and killed by Rochester police Officer Micheal Leach at an apartment building on Thurston road on the West side of Rochester New York . of which was i was shocked to learn that it was Denise Hawkins who was a Very Beautiful woman actually as i’de known of her before she Married Louis Hawkins of whom i also knew since we lived in the same neighborhood on the Northeast side of Rochester from an early age . i thought hearing that this beautiful girl was killed in such a fashion had to be Mis information since she was the semi quite type always smiling . hearing that a then also young Micheal leach had made this life altering decision to end the life of a young bright Denise Hawkins i tried wrapping my mind around hearing that at one point she was to have been angry with a knife in hand coming forward at officer leach . first the Rochester police stated that she was in the kitchen , then a hallway , then coming up from a basement . it all sounded like cover up material being that it was Unconceivable that Denise would be angry enough to provoke or direct violent attention towards someone unrelated to an argument between her and her husband . it did not make sense at all . Reverend Graves and many of us discussed what could have gone wrong to cause a cover up of the facts . we concluded that there was a possibility that the police had separated Denise and Louie Hawkins to get both sides of the story and that under the stress of Denise being physically beaten or verbally, was upset went towards Louie Hawkins and the other police officers on the scene to further explain or demand that Louis Leave the apartment . nonetheless , whether it was that a then observing Micheal Leach noticed Denise moving forward or just simply noticing the knife in her hands if that was a fact fired in response thus killing her . after this killing the father of Denise Hawkins was Devastated to lose his beautiful Daughter was said to have some how shot and Killed Louie Hawkins after having words about his daughter’s Death . honestly Lou and Denise were two Beautiful people who just had a moment that many couples have , somewhere it just all went wrong . i miss them both and wonder what would have been of them had Micheal leach never fired the shot of death . my question now is after all of the years that Reverend Florence , Reverend Harvey , Reverend Graves and many others have asked if there could be a civilian review board put in place to monitor the actions of the Rochester Police Department which to date Has not been properly done . we also wondered if any psychological effects would later be present due to human error or due to the fact that taking the life of any human being would be catastrophic for anyone even a police officer .

  • dougo

    a very large percentage of cops are only a half step behind this guy.the problem is systemic throughout.

  • Carlos

    KARMA in action.

    The same KARMA that is going to bite some people who post here…eventually.
    (You know who you are, don’t you?)


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  • Maurice Clemmons Devil Slayer

    I heard about him killing his son shortly after it happened but had no idea this fellow had already killed another innocent person. Thanks for doing the research and getting this information out to the public. Once one of these people gets away with murder it’s just a matter of time before they do it again. I still believe the possibility exists that they had been arguing about something and this individual got mad and killed his son to get the last word in. These people are all a bunch of psychopathic hot heads looking for an excuse to explode.

  • Maurice Clemmons Devil Slayer

    But hopefully this time, if this gentleman has even the slightest hint of conscience left in him, which I doubt, he’ll do the right thing and go somewhere and commit suicide.

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  • Common Sense

    Someone shooting a family member mistakening them for a burglar is not uncommon.

    Tragic as it was, its not the first time, I would hazard it happens 5-10 times per year.

    The only reason its more newsworthly, is Davy V makes it so. Making the leap that something that took place nearly 40 years ago, lead to some type of malicious intent is comical at best.

    And you left out where he was armed with a knife when she was shot and killed, then again, I’d expect nothing less.

  • Shawn

    Common sense when you shoot someone is center of mass. Shooting someone in the leg or arm is difficult and doesn’t remove the threat., nor do I question repeated shots, as that if the first shot doesn’t do the job, the next shot will be theirs into you.

    The problem with cops like this is the paranoia that is trained into them. The slightest sign of threat, and they shoot. like 37 years ago, he made no effort to verify the danger. This officer safety first mentality is killing innocent people left and right, and suspects die in questionable situations.

    Cops refuse to wait until the threat is clear. They forget that the victims of crimes might be armed too. They mistake something in a person’s hand for a weapon. They see a movement to the waist and assume gun, only to find nothing. After these instances they say, oh well. Crap happens. They take no responsibility for their fuckups.

    Well, I say great shooting, dad. I would love to congratulate the chicken shit on surviving at the expense of his son, event though there was no threat.

    I want to see more of this happens. I want cops. killing their wives and children by accident. I others cops. killing the loved ones of cops. through paranoia. I want amateur special operators invading the homes of officers and their families.
    Maybe when the consequences of this nonsense finally starts affecting cops., they’ll rethink how they want to behave.

    But for now, since pigs value the lives of others so little, I’ll just say, “hahaha!”

  • Rob

    Great research and post Davy!!!

  • Mr. Bawkbagawk

    “Leach, the son of former Rochester, NY Police Chief Delmar Leach, stated that Hawkins had a knife in her hand” second sentence CS you illiterate moron.

  • Shawn


    He did mentioned she had a knife. How does her having a weapon in hand justify killing an innocent person. do you not think that the victims of a crime might be armed too?

    It is the responsibility for the person with a weapon to verify the threat, whether you are a cop or not. You don’t react blindly. Owning a gun isn’t a license to kill at the drop of, a hat.

    He has an itchy trigger finger and now he’s paying for it. but hey, at least the cop is safe. Good shooting asshole.

  • donnie devine


  • Jim

    Officer safety trumps all. Shoot first.

  • Jay

    o well, shit happens. tough luck asshole.

  • Common Sense

    Run around with a knife or a gun is a good way to get shot by the police. Perhaps it was suicide by cop 1970’s style.

    Just like in MN or OH, cops made the right call in both incidents. Even the posting her about ‘Man armed with stick’ who was killed, that too was the right call.

  • Shawn

    July 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm Run around with a knife or a gun is a good way to get shot by the police. Perhaps it was suicide by cop 1970′s style.


    Maybe she was scared for her life, Moron. How would your react in a dangerous situation? Would your put the only thing protecting your life? Especially if your don’t even know if a cop is in the area.

    By your logic, I would be justified in shooting any cop with a weapon drawn, since I don’t know what his intentions are.

  • Spirit of 46

    “Common Sense says:

    July 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Run around with a knife or a gun is a good way to get shot by the police.”
    So…then why aren’t the police shooting each other since they all run around with guns?

  • Common Sense

    Its odd, there have been clearly incidents where some is OC and the police don’t slay anyone.

    Given the situation, you come at me with a knife, I’ll turn you into a strainer..

  • Common Sense


    I would assume that the police rarely use deadly force, even with a situation calls for it. Thanks for proving a valid point about law enforcement.

  • CosmicCrab

    Get your facts straight, if you’re going to use this forum as a means of discourse.
    First: Denise Hawkins was a known prostitute and heroin addict.
    Second: She was shot in the hall as she rushed at officers with a 15 inch butcher knife
    Third: Her own father later killed her husband.
    Fourth: Leach was cleared by a grand jury of his OWN PEERS – citizens like you and me.
    Fifth: The knife AND Ms. Hawkins were less than 12 inches away from Officer Leach when he fired.
    Sixth: Police were called to the residence at least 4 times that DAY to break up the domestic violence. Domestic violence laws at the time did not enable cops to arrest either.

    Now: on to the rest of your puerile blathering (if you don’t censor this or decide not to publish it because of your agenda)
    You weren’t there when he shot Matt. You don’t know what transpired. Contrary to your belief that there were other circumstances (alcohol, dispute) Both were as close as a father and son could be. Leach served the Rochester community for over 30 years, laying his life on the line for citizenry. You assume too much and your “research” is pure tripe. Did you look at the court records? Did you look up Leach’s service record? Did you consider how many countless lives he saved or protected? Nope. You’re just another blathering half-wit with a keyboard condemning cops because you have an agenda.

  • Ian

    The sad fact is, it’s going to take a lot more dead bodies of innocent people to change things.

    This is NOT my America any longer.

  • CosmicCrab

    I KNEW that you’d be too gutless to post my comment. Facts don’t really matter to you, do they? PUBLISH THE GRAND JURY FINDINGS (YOUR peers) about the Denise Hawkins matter. Go ahead… I DARE you.

  • certain

    LOL if good old common were being butt-raped by a cop on the side of the road, he would probably find some way to say it was justified.

  • Anti Cop

    Common Sense said in part on July 30, 2012 at 2:38 pm…

    “Given the situation, you come at me with a knife, I’ll turn you into a strainer..”


    Actually one has to read between the lines of Common Sense’s post to find out what he really ment..

    “You come at me and I’ll turn you into a strainer, but before anybody gets to the scene of the murder, I’ll make sure my “THROW DOWN KNIFE” is planted in your hand so I can claim Officer Safety.

    Of course it doesn’t matter that I shot you several times in the back as you were running away…”


    Once again “Common (Cops Can Do NO Wrong!) Sense” shows us just how much of a “Badge Bully” cop he really is.

    Anti Cop

  • Common Sense

    Anti cop writes just like Carlos – how odd…

  • Maurice Clemmons Devil Slayer

    It’s a complete waste of time trying to reason with this vermin. In their mind they’re right, PERIOD. In their mind, they’re incapable of being wrong. This vermin has absolutely no regard for human life. By some thought process that I’ll never understand they’ve managed to completely supress their conscience. One could reasonably liken them to a robot. You stick a memory card into a slot on the robot and then the robot just does what it’s programmed to do.

  • Common Sense


    Run! Run away now, before its too late! You’ve uncovered a massive plot run by JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

    When our corporate master activate ‘Operation Crush the People’ all the armed SWAT vehicles in the nation will suddenly be armed with belt feed weapoons! Armed drones will buzz 24/7 and secret gov’t orders will activate to rid any and all ‘lessor people’ of their meaningless rights.

    The FEMA camps will open and those who are on ‘the list’ will be spirited away in the night! Those who stand in the way of the 1% machine will be cut down before the eyes of their families, who will then be enslaved and be ‘re-educated’!!

  • Shawn

    Common, your lack of regarding for constitutional rights is evidence that what Maurice says is correct. To people like you and cops, any concept of government restraint or regard for the Constitution is dieing.

    Buy the way, it isn’t only liberals who have a problem with what is going on. More and more conservatives are catching on to what is going on. Go to freerepublic and spout your nonsense. I don’t know what you are, but you are no constitutional conservative.

  • AmericanThePoliceState

    Officers who commit crimes should serve ten times the penalty. Violent offenders should be publicaly executed immediately upon conviction.

  • The_Lakewood_4_are_Burning_in_Hell

    Good shot, Captain. He probably made a furtitive move for his waistband. Officer safety is paramount. You can never be too careful, because he was probably on drugs or liked drugs or knew the names of some drugs.

    Sleep soundly, officer. A non cop is dead and a cop goes home safe at the end of his shift. Win-win.

  • The_Lakewood_4_are_Burning_in_Hell

    Which is what the T/Common/stupid Mic cheering section would have been saying if he had killed someone else’s innocent kid / spouse / dog, rather than his own.

  • Good Job

    When I heard that this guy shot his Son I had the biggest smile on my face. LOL,…….just like I do right now while typing this. Killing your own Son,………HAHAHA,….are you serious ? And he shot him in the back ! Talk about being overly paranoid.

    This story made my day.

  • Nichole

    “Common Sense” said:

    “Run! Run away now, before its too late! You’ve uncovered a massive plot run by JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

    When our corporate master activate ‘Operation Crush the People’ all the armed SWAT vehicles in the nation will suddenly be armed with belt feed weapoons! Armed drones will buzz 24/7 and secret gov’t orders will activate to rid any and all ‘lessor people’ of their meaningless rights.

    The FEMA camps will open and those who are on ‘the list’ will be spirited away in the night! Those who stand in the way of the 1% machine will be cut down before the eyes of their families, who will then be enslaved and be ‘re-educated’!!

    …Right, I can tell you’re clearly trying hard to be sarcastic, but really I think you’re trying to say that you “tried” to warn people about what is really going on. But go ahead and bow down to your God (the state) and we’ll see how things go…

    Police murder innocent people just because they feel like it. That is the plain true fact.

    Also, did anyone else get here via ?

    If not, I urge EVERYONE to go to that site! Cops will shoot first, ask questions later, or just shoot because they wanted to kill someone. Then they will make up a reason why (because there were no witnesses, of course. So why not make themselves out to be the victims somehow?) This shit happens all the time!

    It has been shown to me time and time again that I could be murdered just for walking down the street! Is this terrifying to anyone else? Personally, this is frightening to me. I could walk down the street minding my own business, and a cop can come up behind me and shoot me dead. I have seen videos that prove this indefinitely.

    We live in a police state. They want citizens to fear them and they can and absolutely will (and DO) murder completely innocent people to make sure that they do. :-(

  • Anti Cop

    Common Sense says: July 31, 2012 at 10:22 am

    “Anti cop writes just like Carlos – how odd…”


    You’re close (and sound like “Johnny {Cops Can Do NO Wrong!} Law”… but in this case you get NO cigar! Try again though.

    Anti Cop

  • Maurice Clemmons Devil Slayer

    Hey officer leech (leach deliberately misspelled). If you’re reading this, do us all a favor. Stick that big bad .45 that you used to kill your son in your mouth and kill yourself.

  • fedup

    Really, killed his own son, aint that a shame.

  • Edgar Roehrich

    A lag of 4 to 20 minutes? Color me puzzled. Wouldn’t the time lag be constant?

  • qjntjn

    Apparently everyone believes what they read, first and foremost no one really knows if that was what really happened, Denise was the one that called the police in the first place. Are people really that inconsiderate to keep re-posting the stupid comment from @Common sense and @Shawn. How would you like it if it was your family member and the cop shot them before even trying to find out what was going on. Cops are trigger happy there are multiple examples of this, but as usual people always want to protect the officer,or act like that was their only defense. Well now he has killed his own son by being trigger happy. They were sharing a room, why wouldn’t you think that it was your son coming in the door? What goes around comes around.

  • Adrienne

    We will never forget what happened that night (Nov. 11 1975) or the truth.

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  • DLnDallas

    I’ve grown up in TexASS. I used to back the blue. In fact, when an officer was surrounded by a crowd in downtown Dallas one afternoon, and gunned down, they asked everyone in the city to have their headlights on as support. I ran my car battery down 3 times that day.
    Would I do that NOW? Absolutely NEVER. It’s not just the little power and control games they play (like tailgating you so you make a mistake, or following you for 2 miles because you stared at them 5 seconds too long), it is outright stealing, raping and murder in this state. And alas, in nearly every state. I think it is an attitude that has gotten worse because it is supported (and maybe even praised) by their peers and superiors. My brother was serving in the military when a friend of his, a 19 year old was stopped by Garland police. As they were running his license plates, he pulled away. He was newly married and they were having money problems, so he got scared about the ticket. The cop dropped to his knees and emptied the gun–leaving behind a 19 year old pregnant wife. Later the cop’s partner actually admonished him publicly saying he could have used other options and didn’t need to shoot the guy. But that was in the late 70’s. Would any cop do that now even if it was blatant murder? NOPE. They have even shot people’s PETS here (excuse me, a dog chained to the tree was a threat to you? Nah, I think it’s because the woman wouldn’t give you what you wanted). It is blood curdling and sickening. There is a reason the term PIG was invented.