Schenectady County

DA: Man died from heart attack, not an assault

The man who lost his life on a State Street sidewalk last week died from a heart attack, not an assa

The man who died Thursday night on a State Street sidewalk after being chased died from a heart attack, not an assault, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said Monday.

Whether any charges could be lodged against whoever was chasing the man remained under examination Monday, authorities said.

Carney said with the facts known, he does not see any homicide-related charges being filed. “I won’t close the door completely,” he said of a homicide charge, “but it would take some very unusual finding to overcome the argument” that the man’s severe heart condition could have resulted in his death at any time.

The dead man is 43-year-old Harold Gotti of Schenectady. Those who knew him said Gotti was a genial man who often rode his bike around the central State Street area doing odd jobs.

Police on Friday described him as being the victim of an assault in the area of 1255 State St., where he died.

Gotti fell during the apparent chase shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday. Carney declined to get into the underlying details of the pursuit itself, including why whoever was chasing him was doing so.

At least two people were believed to be with Gotti at the time, but it was unclear who did what, police said Friday. Police also have not said if those individuals have been identified.

Police then called Gotti’s death “suspicious,” pending the autopsy Saturday.

Police on Monday only confirmed that Gotti’s death was from natural causes, but said the overall investigation was continuing.

The autopsy Saturday found his death was the result of the heart attack, Carney said. It also indicated he had had a heart problem for some time.

There was no sign of injuries from an assault, Carney said, but added that there was some information, apparently from other sources, that Gotti may have been kicked after he fell.

Regarding any possible homicide charges, though, Carney said there has to be intent by the person to seriously injure or kill, or at least an awareness that there is risk of injury or death.

While the heart attack happened during the chase, Gotti’s condition was severe enough that it could have happened at any time, Carney said.

Two other local cases have some similarities in their details.

In 2006, three people were initially charged with high-level assault related to the death of 38-year-old Gerald Strachan on Chrisler Avenue. A grand jury, though, eventually returned no indictment against the trio.

In that case, Strachan was punched, causing him to fall backwards and hit his head on the concrete sidewalk.

A grand jury returned no homicide charges based in part because they found the punch in itself did not carry with it a “substantial risk that death will result.”

Ultimately, no charges at all were filed by the grand jury due to other factors specific to that case.

Asked about that case Monday, Carney noted that Strachan’s death had a more direct link to an action than Gotti’s case, but still resulted in no homicide charges.

A case with more parallels, Carney noted, might be the 1996 Schenectady arson where veteran city firefighter Donald A. Collins died of a heart attack while operating a pumper truck in front of the burning house.

The homeowner later admitted in federal court to setting the fire and was sentenced to 61⁄2 years related to that. No homicide charges were brought, though, as prosecutors couldn’t prove that Collins, who had a heart condition before the fire, died because he was fighting the fire.

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