The knife-wielding man who rushed at officers and was shot three times in the lobby of The Daily Gazette admitted to the act Wednesday in court, accepting a sentence of up to five years.
Elvis Norwood, 22, also indicated he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, an assertion backed up later by the prosecutor in the case.
Prosecutor William Sanderson said he had received documents supporting the diagnosis. Sanderson also indicated it appeared Norwood was off his medication at the time of the Oct. 8, 2011, shooting and was having a psychotic episode.
At that time, Norwood showed up at the newspaper’s locked offices, but was let inside by a security guard after asking for water. Witnesses said Norwood appeared drowsy, medicated and “very vacant-looking” when he arrived.
Only later was it determined that he had a knife. Police were called and Norwood soon rushed them. Officer Brett Ferris fired four shots, hitting Norwood three times, in the arm, chest and stomach. Arriving with Ferris was Officer Timothy Rizzo.
Norwood has since recovered fully.
Regardless of the mental health claims, Sanderson said Norwood waived any mental disease or defect defense by taking the plea Wednesday. Norwood’s attorney, Sven Paul, declined to comment later.
Norwood, who has no criminal history, pleaded guilty to one count of menacing a police officer, a felony. In exchange, he is to receive up to five years in state prison, but could receive as little as time served. The final sentence will be up to Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago at Norwood’s December sentencing.
Sanderson said all of those factors, including the danger he placed officers in, was taken into account when making the plea offer.
“Clearly he put two police officers in real danger of serious injury or death,” Sanderson said. “You factor that in with, in spite of the fact that he has no criminal record, he could spend up to five years in prison.
“It’s a balancing act, really, between how serious the behavior was, balanced with the fact that he clearly has no record and he clearly was suffering from not taking his meds for paranoid schizophrenia.”
Norwood, of Hattie Street, was originally charged with second-degree burglary, attempted aggravated assault on a police officer and menacing a police officer, as well as a misdemeanor weapons possession charge. He has been held since the incident.
Norwood was accused of illegally remaining inside the newspaper’s locked offices after being let inside.
According to police and family, Norwood was at Ellis Hospital twice for suicidal thoughts in the days leading up to the incident. Police took him there on a pickup order on one of those occasions.
Sanderson said there is no way to explain why Norwood rushed at the officers with the knife other than he was suicidal.
After Norwood’s arrest, Norwood’s attorney, Paul, asked that Norwood be evaluated to determine his competency to stand trial. Sanderson noted Wednesday that Norwood also spent a month at the Central New York Psychiatric Center for evaluation.
In court Wednesday, Norwood appeared to understand what was going on. Drago asked Norwood about his condition and medications he was taking, eventually concluding that he understood. Paul also vouched for his client’s understanding, referencing previous discussions with Norwood.
Police officials have said the shooting was within policy and state law, and Ferris later received a citation from the department for bravery.