A Schenectady man was shot by city police around 3 p.m. today after he entered the lobby of The Daily Gazette appearing dazed, refused to leave and then charged officers with a knife in a possible suicide-by-cop attempt.
Witnesses said the man, identified as 21-year-old Elvis Norwood of Hattie Street, appeared drowsy, medicated and “very vacant-looking” when he first arrived at the Gazette’s locked front doors. Norwood asked a security guard on duty for a drink of water, and the guard allowed him inside.
As of Saturday night, Norwood was expected to survive and was reported in stable condition at Ellis Hospital.
“At this point we’re forced to believe that this was an attempt of suicide by the police,” said Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett. “We have spoken with a family member, who indicates to us this subject lately has been expressing suicidal thoughts, and we have one case we know of in our files where he was taken by the police department to Ellis Hospital within the last 10 days on a pickup order form the hospital.”
Norwood had begun to wander around the main lobby, circulation department and first-floor hallways for about 45 minutes after he was allowed in. The security guard continued asking him to leave, witnesses said.
The guard then called the newspaper’s general manager, Daniel Beck, at his home, and Beck and his girlfriend, Linda Eldeen, arrived shortly after at the building at 2345 Maxon Road Ext.
Eldeen said she and Beck walked up to the man, who appeared tired and weak as he slouched against a wall at the back of the lobby. Eldeen said she asked the man if he needed any help and he replied, “Yes, I need some help. Get me help,” she said.
During the brief conversation, Eldeen and Beck observed a shiny object in the man’s hand; the object turned out to be a knife that was previously hidden by baggy clothing. They realized that it was a knife and that his left hand was bleeding. It later was reported that Norwood had a steak knife with a 9-inch blade.
Eldeen said, “I was just going to say to him, ‘Come on, get up, let’s get out of here.’ Then I realized. He had his hand just loose down by his side, and then I realized it was blood on his hand. Then when I turned my head a little bit, I could actually see the shine of the knife.”
At that point, they said, they walked away and called 911. Two Schenectady police officers arrived, with backup on the way, and they entered the building with guns drawn. The officers approached the man and asked him to put down the knife, said Beck and Eldeen. A negotiation took place for about five minutes, they said.
Beck said, “He was going back and forth between the hallway and the elevator, just staring them down and pacing. He kept saying, ‘Why are you doing this to me?’ They were trying to reason with him, telling him ‘drop it, drop the weapon.’ And he finally got into a straight-on confrontation and he came at them.”
He said the police opened fire at that moment and the man collapsed to the floor.
Bennett, at a news conference at police headquarters later, said that when backup arrived with Tasers, Norwood charged at the two initial responders. “One of the officers had to go open the door to let the police officers that had the Tasers inside, and at that point, the remaining officer, who was probably 5 or 6 feet away from the individual, was approached and the subject made running movements at him,” he said.
“He discharged four rounds from his issued firearm, three of which struck the individual.”
Norwood was hit in the stomach and chest.
A Mohawk Ambulance took Norwood to Ellis Hospital in Schenectady at approximately 4:20 p.m.
Two employees in the Gazette’s circulation department said the man walked into their office some time after 3 p.m., looking confused and talking to himself.
Samantha Billsborrow, 21, said when she first arrived to the Gazette, the man was sitting in the lobby and staring at her.
“I got nervous, so as politely as I could, I said, ‘Hi, how are you?’ and just walked past him and thought, ‘that’s weird,’” said Billsborrow. “And then 20 minutes later, the kid’s walking into our office.”
Beck said people walk into the Gazette building all the time, often asking to use the bathroom.
“We say no, this isn’t a public facility,” he said. “But during the day, they come in, there’s enough people around and we’re out there quickly to escort people out. And that’s what we tried to do. We tried to be calm and just escort the guy out. But once we saw the knife in his hand, we’re not going to bother him.”