Schenectady police were justified in shooting and killing a man after he lunged at his injured boyfriend with a knife inside a Dewitt Avenue apartment building Thursday morning, authorities said.
Police Lt. Mark McCracken declined to identify the victim or the deceased man, pending notification of his family. He said the identity of the sergeant who fired at the knife-wielding man three times — twice as he turned the weapon toward the officer — would also be withheld until Friday.
“We want to give him and his family the opportunity to deal with the traumatic situation he went through today,” he said of the officer.
McCracken said the results of a preliminary investigation into the shooting will soon be forwarded to the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office to determine if the case needs to be presented to a grand jury. He said the initial results, however, show the sergeant followed protocol in the shooting.
“The initial investigation conducted by the department has shown that the officers involved all acted in accordance with departmental policy procedures,” he said during a brief news conference outside the Schenectady Police Department.
McCracken described the deceased man as being in his 40s and having lived in the Schenectady area for just five months, making it difficult for investigators to track down his next of kin. He said the man’s boyfriend, who sustained several puncture wounds during a fracas between the two men, continues to be treated at the McClellan campus of Ellis Hospital and is expected to recover.
Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said investigators are still “putting the puzzle pieces together” to determine what happened before police arrived. Neighbors of the men described a protracted altercation that suggested the boyfriend was held at knifepoint for hours.
Aylon Campbell, a tenant living nearby the men’s apartment, said he was awoken by shouts around 5:30 a.m. He contemplated calling police, but decided against it when the shouts suddenly stopped.
“It was a confrontation,” he said. “It was very brief.”
Campbell said he heard one voice repeatedly and quietly saying, “I’m sorry.” He speculated that the voice could have been the man who was later stabbed.
“I thought they must be working it out,” he said.
As tenants left for work, another argument broke out. Maintenance workers in the basement heard the shouts and were alarmed enough to call 911.
At about 9:20 a.m. — nearly four hours after Campbell heard the first shouts — police arrived. Even outside the building, they could hear the shouting, Bennett said.
The commissioner wouldn’t say what they heard, but indicated it was enough to convince them that they had to enter the apartment immediately. Responding officers broke through the locked front door of the building, then smashed through the men’s apartment door.
Bennett said police witnessed a man holding another man at knifepoint. The man being held was already bleeding through his shirt.
Bennett said the men and police exchanged a few words. Then the knife-wielder suddenly announced that he was going to kill the other man, and lunged at his chest with the blade.
“The sergeant shot him,” Bennett recounted. “He lunged at the sergeant. The sergeant shot him twice more.”
The man fell without striking either of his targets. Bennett praised the sergeant for acting quickly enough to save the victim’s life.
“They did everything right,” he said. “His first thoughts were for the person who had the knife to his chest.”
The men had lived together for at least the past few months. Some tenants said they heard fights before but never saw any signs of violence.
“I heard yelling a few times,” tenant Danielle Gardner said. “Nothing I thought was anyone hurting anyone.”
Gardner was also surprised to find violence breaking out in her own building.
“I know Schenectady’s thought of as a rougher area, but that’s more downtown,” she said. “Not here.”
But a woman living across the street told a different story. She said she was fed up with the regular police presence at the apartment building.
“This is an everyday thing with this building. There are police and firetrucks there four times a week. Seriously,” said the woman who didn’t give her name. “It’s very disappointing — you pay all this in taxes and this is what you get.”
Bennett plans to research past problems at the apartment building. He also intends to talk to the sergeant who fired the shots to ensure he’s contending with the traumatic situation involving a death.
“Nobody that’s a police officer in this country ever wants to be involved in taking the life of a person,” Bennett said. “It’s devastating to the officer.”