ITHACA, N.Y. — A woman who saw her friend hit an Ithaca police officer in the face last week said her friend did not intend to hit the officer.

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In fact, she was trying to hit a woman who had punched her in the face, according to the friend and witness.

Epiphany Kearney, 22, was charged with a violation for second-degree harassment and a misdemeanor for second-degree obstructing governmental administration after she left an officer with a bloody, swollen lip.

Kimberly Noftell, who witnessed the incident, said she wanted to tell Kearney’s side of the story to better reflect what she saw happen that evening.

“It just made it look like she’s an angry black female who wanted to attack this officer,” she said about information released by the police.

She provided the following narrative:

Her daughter and Kearney had spent the evening drinking and dancing in downtown Ithaca when they called Noftell for a sober ride home.

Noftell and a friend met them in front of Lot 10 on South Cayuga Street downtown and decided to walk for pizza before going home.

Her daughter asked a man — who was part of a group of four people — for a cigarette and the man started talking to Kearney.

A woman in the other group allegedly became upset Kearney was alking to the man and began yelling at her to stay away from him. The argument escalated and the woman, Noftell said, punched Kearney in the face.

A nearby officer began approaching the woman while Kearney was leaning over spitting up blood. When Kearney stood up, she tried hitting the woman who attacked her. Instead, she hit the police officer who was standing next to the woman.

Court records obtained Friday confirm that the police officer was restraining the other woman after trying to disperse people from the area.

Noftell said hitting the other woman is not something Kearney would have done if she hadn’t been drinking alcohol.

“You can’t say how you would react to something when you’re hit and you’re intoxicated,” she said about the incident.

She said Kearney was released into her care after being booked at the police station. She said no bail was set for Kearney.

“I get that she made a mistake and she has to deal with the consequences,” Noftell said, adding that the officer seemed to know that Kearney did no intend to hit her.

She said Kearney recognized the woman who punched her in the face but is not pressing charges.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.