David Scaringe, killed by stray bullet, remembered
Every New Year’s Eve, Loralynne Krobetzky and Mike Welch raise a toast to a man named David Scaringe.
Scaringe was shot and killed by a stray bullet fired by police on Dec. 31, 2003, at the intersection of Lark and State streets in Albany. Just 24, he was caught in the crossfire when two officers attempted to stop a fleeing driver wanted on traffic charges.
“David is always on my mind, especially at New Year’s,” said Krobetzky, 35, who was good friends with Scaringe and lives in Schenectady with Welch, her longtime partner. For a while, she was so traumatized by what happened that she avoided Albany and steered clear of crowds.
“I’m past that,” she told me. But on New Year’s, “I want to be in my own house. I want to be home. I want to be safe.”
I didn’t know David Scaringe, though we were neighbors.
At the time of his death, I lived on Lark Street, not far from the apartment he shared with his fiance and the intersection where he died. On the night he was killed, I was working out of the Gazette’s old Albany bureau, and I made my way to the scene as soon as I heard about the shooting. A friend of mine was hosting a New Year’s Eve party at his apartment on State Street, and introduced me to two friends who had witnessed the shooting.
One of these men, Vermont resident Stan Velto, contacted me about a month ago, seeking a copy of the story I had written about the shooting. “I was thinking of making a song out of it,” he said.
Velto’s message piqued my interest.
For one thing, I couldn’t believe Scaringe’s death occurred 10 years ago. Had it really been that long? If someone like Velto, who hadn’t even known Scaringe, still thought about his death, how did Scaringe’s friends and family feel about that tragic night? Was the shooting still raw and immediate, or had the passage of time dulled the pain?
On Tuesday morning, I took a drive up to the intersection of Lark and State streets, where I met Scaringe’s parents, Frank and Pam Scaringe of Colonie. They were setting up a small memorial for their son, as they have every year since he was killed, though Pam said this year’s memorial might be their last. They hung up a wreath, and a laminated pictures of David, as well as cards and family photographs. Scaringe had two siblings, a brother who is now 39, and a sister who is now 33.
“We put up pictures of our family each year,” Frank Scaringe explained. “We want to show people that David had a family, that he was not just some young guy.” The Scaringes described their son as an adventurous young man who “loved to try anything,” “liked people and gave everyone a chance,” loved to play string instruments such as the guitar, mandolin and banjo, and was “pro-education.”
The Scaringes said that the death of their son is still painful, and always will be.
“The hurt is there, but you learn to tolerate it,” Frank Scaringe told me. He added, “There’s no silver lining to this.”
The Scaringes have stayed in touch with their son’s fiance, Karen Jabonaski, who now lives in Vermont and recently became engaged.
“I still think of [Scaringe’s death], especially with it being 10 years,” Jabonaski, 37, said. “Something like that never leaves you. It stays with you, especially this time of year. ... I listen to the fiddle tunes he used to like. He was a terrific guy.”
I interviewed Krobetzky, Welch and Jabonaski on the one-year anniversary on Scaringe’s death. At that time, they were very angry about what had happened to their friend. When I spoke to them this week, they said that their anger still exists, though it has faded somewhat. They remain mystified by the grand jury’s failure to indict the two officers involved in the shooting, Joseph Gerace and William Bonnani; in their eyes, these men were never held accountable for what happened.
“My anger still sort of lives,” Krobetzky told me. “Every time I hear about a police chase, every time I hear about something like this, I feel compelled to read about it. ... There’s never been any closure. [The grand jury] almost made it seem like it was OK.”
“It never felt like there was any real justice,” Jabonaski said. “It definitely felt like there should have been more accountability. It hurts me still.”
I’ve always shared Krobetzky and Jabonaski’s point of view. Nothing will ever convince me that the shooting of Scaringe was justified — that it was anything but the result of staggeringly poor judgment.
In general, police should avoid engaging in high-speed chases in residential neighborhoods, and the circumstances under which they should fire their weapons are few and far between. The driver the police were pursuing when Scaringe was killed, Daniel Reed, was unarmed, and wanted on traffic charges. If the officers had simply called off the chase and dealt with Reed later, a lot of heartache could have been avoided.
Scaringe’s death did prompt the Albany Police Department to change its policies regarding police chases, which is good. Officers are now supposed to take the severity of the crime and the risk to bystanders into account before embarking on a chase.
Earlier this week, I caught up with Stan Velto and Jim Starace, a Long Island resident who was in town for the New Year’s Eve party at my friend’s apartment. Starace saw Scaringe walk toward a police officer after he was shot, open his coat, fall to the pavement and die.
“I cannot get that image out of my head,” Starace said. “To this day, my thoughts and prayers go out to that young man.”
This year Velto, Starace and our mutual friend, who now lives in Watervliet, spent New Year’s Eve together in Lake George with friends and family. Though Velto had not gotten around to writing a song about Scaringe, I asked him what he’d had in mind. He said that “10 years ago my friends and I were all in our 20s. Now everybody’s married. We have kids.” Unlike Scaringe, “We got a chance to do those things.” The song would be a “lucky to be walking around type of thing,” he said.
Like Velto and Starace, I still think of David Scaringe, even though he was a stranger to me. I think of him when I pass the intersection where he died, and also on New Year’s Eve. I’m always struck by the senselessness of what happened, the impact that one errant bullet had.
What’s clear is that Scaringe has not been forgotten.
And he shouldn’t be.
“David is very strong in people’s hearts,” Frank Scaringe said.