A lengthy police chase that ended in Rotterdam with a sword-wielding suspect shot by a state trooper could soon result in a lawsuit.
The family of Michael Messina, who survived being shot, filed notices of claim this week against several jurisdictions claiming violations of his civil and constitutional rights.
The notice contends Messina was mentally ill and intent on suicide-by-cop. The claim contends that police knew of his mental state but disregarded that information, leading to him being shot rather than calming the situation down.
Messina, 19, of Albany, has been hospitalized since the Dec. 26 shooting.
His family is seeking $10 million in damages.
Long Island attorney Bradley Gerstman said Thursday that police had other options than to shoot Messina, as he was not a threat to the public at the time and had run into a wooded area.
“Instead of trying to de-escalate the situation with a mentally ill individual, for whatever reason the police, who were obviously unskilled at this, decided to escalate it,” Gerstman said.
He questioned the need for police to approach Messina in the wooded area, instead of containing him and waiting or using other means to subdue him.
Messina was first spotted throwing an energy drink container and other debris at a trooper who had stopped another driver on Interstate 87 in Halfmoon, police said at the time.
When the trooper tried to pull Messina over, he fled south at a high rate of speed. That portion of the chase ended in Guilderland when police lost sight of him.
But police soon received a report of a sword-point robbery at a Central Avenue liquor store in Colonie that involved a vehicle similar to the one they’d been chasing.
Colonie police spotted Messina and tried to pull him over, but he allegedly led police on a lengthy chase through Schenectady, Scotia and Rotterdam, throwing objects at them as he drove.
His car came to a halt on Interstate 890 after police used a device to flatten his tires.
He then fled on foot with the sword. After crossing a small stream, Messina turned and raised the sword toward the trooper chasing after him, who then shot Messina once in the abdomen, state police said at the time.
State officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.
According the notice of claim, Messina’s mother heard of the chase and told police of her son’s various mental health issues.
“The Police let the chase go on for hours, and stopped and restarted the chase allowing Michael to get into further problems and more danger,” the claim reads. “Then police continued to chase Michael with more and more police cars and helicopters causing Michael to go even further into a mental health breakdown.”
Gerstman said the notices were filed Wednesday with Albany County, the town of Bethlehem, city of Albany, town of Colonie, Schenectady County and the state of New York.
Schenectady County Attorney Christopher Gardner said Thursday no county agencies were involved in the chase.
Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122 or [email protected]