Schenectady County

Schenectady official: Tasers no use in gun cases

Tasers given to Schenectady police earlier this year are not appropriate to use against a suspect th

Tasers given to Schenectady police earlier this year are not appropriate to use against a suspect threatening with a handgun, Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said Wednesday.

Twenty of the electroshock weapons were issued to city police earlier this year and have been used at least twice to subdue suspects.

Tasers were discussed after the department’s Aug. 1, 2009, fatal shooting of the knife-wielding James Tomlin as possibly another tool officers could have used to de-escalate the situation.

Bennett declined to address Friday’s police shooting of 33-year-old Luis Rivera, a man police said pulled away from officers and pointed a gun at them, but generally, Bennett said, Tasers are not to be used against someone threatening with a gun.

Tasers are best used from a distance and then if there’s a club or a knife involved, Bennett said.

“That whole dynamic changes if the other person is armed with a firearm,” Bennett said. “Just the time it would take for the darts of the Taser to reach the individual, the individual may have already discharged at least two rounds.”

Bennett spoke Wednesday as his department continued its investigation into Friday’s fatal shooting.

He said they’ve gotten cooperation from witnesses and they’re still looking to speak with anyone else who may have direct information on the case.

Rivera was shot shortly after 4:30 p.m. Friday on Grove Place, near State Street.

Police responded to a report of a man showing a gun. Sgt. William Fennell arrived, spotted Rivera and grabbed him, according to police.

Police said Rivera spun away, putting his hand in the pocket that held the gun. He then allegedly failed to respond to police commands and grabbed the gun, held it and motioned at officers.

Fennell and two other officers fired, killing Rivera.

Police officials have said the shooting appeared to be within police policy. They are still conducting interviews.

Bennett also responded to another general scenario, whether officers would shoot to wound or shoot to disarm.

Neither is accepted practice by anybody, Bennett said.

“In a decision that serious,” Bennett said, “that you feel your life is in danger, and you feel you’re in imminent danger of being killed yourself, you’ve made the decision to draw your weapon and fire that gun, the purpose of that is to inflict deadly physical force.”

Aiming to wound or disarm, Bennett also noted, carries the possibility of missing.

As to the number of shots officers can fire, Bennett said they fire until the threat is mitigated.

Also Wednesday, The Daily Gazette obtained a partial criminal history for Rivera, showing him with one trip to state prison, in 2004 on a first-degree criminal contempt conviction.

That conviction led to a 2005 trip before a parole board. The transcript of that parole board visit indicates a criminal record going back to a misdemeanor assault conviction from 1995.

Bennett on Friday referenced a lengthy Rivera criminal history that included a weapons possession charge.

The parole transcript indicates Rivera was charged in Albany in February 1997 with second-degree assault and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, charges that apparently resulted in a violation of probation and a 90-day sentence.

The prison sentence, 11⁄2 to 3 years, resulted from Rivera violating an order of protection relating to the mother of his three children, according to the transcript.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply