Lawsuit claims Schenectady man was unarmed when shot by police

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Albany
Chrystal Scism, the wife of Joshua Scism, is pictured in 2017 with her youngest child.
Chrystal Scism, the wife of Joshua Scism, is pictured in 2017 with her youngest child.

SCHENECTADY — The wife of a man who was shot and killed by two Schenectady police detectives in 2016 claimed her husband was unarmed when the shooting occurred, according to a lawsuit.

Chrystal Scism, the wife and administrator of the estate of Joshua Scism, filed the lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Albany against the city, its Police Department and the two detectives involved in the shooting, Ryan Kent and Brett Ferris.

Chrystal Scism claims both Kent and Ferris used excessive force in the death of her husband when they shot him near his home on First Avenue during an incident on June 13, 2016. 

The lawsuit also claims Joshua Scism was walking away from the two detectives and was unarmed.


Police have previously said Joshua Scism had taken a handgun from his waistband and pointed it at the detectives during the incident.

Police Sgt. Matt Dearing, spokesman for the department, referred all questions to city Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico.

Falotico said the police detectives were correct in their actions.

“Any time there is a loss of life, it is an unfortunate situation,” Falotico said. “But in this situation, I believe the police acted appropriately, and a court will come to the same conclusion.”

In the lawsuit, Chrystal Scism, who is represented by Albany-based attorney Trevor Hannigan, claimed her husband approached the detectives, who were in plain clothes and in an unmarked car.

There had been issues in the neighborhood with various kinds of illegal activity, including prostitution, drug dealing and the use of drugs “occurring at all hours of the day and night,” according to the lawsuit. Chrystal Scism said in the lawsuit that several complaints were made about the activity, though it does not specify where those complaints were filed.

She did, however, claim the city and the Police Department did not act on the complaints.

Because of this, Chrystal Scism said her husband went to confront the men in the unmarked car and asked them to leave because he believed they were involved in “illegal activity.”

When he turned away and walked back toward his home, Ferris and Kent got out of their car and shot Joshua Scism, firing “several rounds,” according to the lawsuit. It added that bullet holes could be found in nearby homes.

Joshua Scism was shot in the back of the head, according to the lawsuit, which then goes into gruesome detail about the wound.

The lawsuit also said when Chrystal Scism went to tend to her husband, the detectives told her to get back inside her home “or otherwise she too would be shot.”

The shooting was “unjustified and unprovoked,” according to the lawsuit.

Hannigan could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Police painted a different picture in their account from two years ago.

They claimed Ferris and Kent were serving a search warrant at the Scisms’ home, which has multiple units, the night of the shooting.

Police previously declined to comment on the warrant.

Police said Joshua Scism approached the detectives’ car where they briefly spoke to him, though it was not made clear what was discussed.

Police said Scism began walking away, but then lifted his shirt, showing a handgun in his waistband. Police said that’s when the two detectives go out of their car, drew their weapons and identified themselves as police officers.

Scism then drew his weapon and pointed it at them, prompting one of the detectives to shoot him, police say.

Police previously declined to say which detective fired his weapon. At the time, it was unclear if Scism ever fired his weapon.

Falotico said a gun was recovered after the incident.

The incident reportedly was being investigated by the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Police. It was unclear what the status of those investigations were.

A call to both agencies was not immediately returned.

The lawsuit said that while Chrystal Scism and her three children are “deprived of his love, affection and guidance,” Joshua Schism was also the primary financial earner of the household.

The lawsuit requests an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages, both to be decided by a jury.

Categories: News, Schenectady County


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