Darrel Brown squeezed the trigger of his semi-automatic AK-47 at least 28 times before being dropped by a single bullet fired from a state police marksman’s rifle.
The shot struck the 22-year-old Hartford man in the head, abruptly ending the 51-minute exchange of shots between Brown and police along a rural stretch of the Thruway late Saturday morning. Investigators are now trying to figure out what prompted Brown to begin shooting at a trooper who pulled over a cab that was taking him from Connecticut to an undisclosed location in Albany.
“This incident quickly went from a routine traffic stop to a police officer’s worst nightmare,” said state police Maj. William Sprague, during a news conference at Troop G headquarters in Loudonville Monday afternoon.
Brown, a former United Parcel Service worker, suffered multiple gunshot wounds during the exchange and was in critical condition at the Albany Medical Center Hospital on Monday. Sprague said Brown has not regained consciousness and is unlikely to survive.
“Even if he does survive, I do not believe he will ever be competent to stand trial or be held accountable for what happened that day,” Sprague said.
Authorities said Brown doesn’t have any active arrest warrants and his criminal record only included a juvenile incident that is sealed. Sprague declined to discuss whether Brown was a suspect in a crime other than the shooting, but suggested the man may have taunted police to kill him before being struck by the police round.
“He started yelling at officers ‘shoot me’ or ‘kill me,’ ” Sprague said during the news conference.
The incident started in the westbound lane of Interstate 90, about one mile from Exit 10 in the Rensselaer County town of Schodack. Brown was riding in the rear of a vehicle owned by the Yellow Cab Co. of Bloomfield, Conn., which he hired using a credit card to come to the Capital Region.
The initial stop occurred when a patrol vehicle clocked the cab traveling 84 mph in a 65 mph zone. Sprague said there was a verbal exchange among the cab driver, the trooper and Brown shortly before he removed a Norinco 84S-1 assault rifle — a Chinese-made variant of the AK-47 — he had stowed in a duffel bag.
The startled trooper and cab driver were able to run clear of the cab before Brown could open fire along the busy highway. About four minutes after the stop, he began firing on the parked police cruiser from inside the cab, striking its windshield and hood at least seven times.
“Although there were several attempts to communicate with him, he ignored them and kept shooting,” Sprague said.
State police displayed Brown’s weapon, a 30-round banana magazine, 15 bullets and a gun lock, during the news conference. Sprague theorized Brown may have experienced difficulty in removing the trigger lock, which likely allowed the cab driver and trooper to escape unscathed.
They also released video captured by the trooper’s onboard camera, which shows Brown shooting out the cab’s back window and a hail of bullets striking the idling-but-empty cruiser. The video is the second to surface from the incident, after one recorded from a cellphone captured Brown shooting at police from a crouched position by the cab’s passenger side door.
Police quickly shut down all lanes of the highway as the gunfight erupted. Sprague said six troopers fired a total of 33 shots at Brown, including a dozen from 12-gauge shotguns, 20 from .45-caliber service pistols and one from a .308 rifle with sniper scope. An East Greenbush police officer also fired five rounds from his service weapon.
Investigators recovered 28 shell casings from Brown’s weapon and suggested there could have been more that might be obscured by the snow. They found an additional 15 bullets in the magazine and one round in the chamber.
The taxi, two trooper vehicles and two bystanders’ vehicles were struck by bullets, but no officers or bystanders were hit. The highway was closed for nearly eight hours as police investigated.
Where Brown acquired the gun, or if he could legally possess it, were not made clear.
However, the type of weapon recovered — a rifle with semi-automatic firing, which requires a trigger pull for each shot — can normally be owned without a permit in New York; the large-capacity magazine is now illegal but similar devices are grandfathered in and so the specific unit may have been legal. The weapon recovered is being checked by police to determine its origin and date of manufacture.
State police are now conducting a criminal and administrative investigation into the shooting, which will both be presented to the Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutor Richard McNally said the criminal investigation isn’t likely to go much further due to Brown’s deteriorating condition.
“Upon the demise of Mr. Brown, [the criminal] investigation will cease,” he said.