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What you need to know for 11/19/2017

Police: Rotterdam officer justified in shooting attacker

Police: Rotterdam officer justified in shooting attacker

William Clark stabbed at a Rotterdam police sergeant Sunday, then cut an officer in the head before
Police: Rotterdam officer justified in shooting attacker
Rotterdam Police Chief James Hamilton talks about the events from the justified police shooting of a man in his home on Roberta Rd. in Rotterdam on Sunday. Pictured left to right is Rotterdam Police Inv. Michael Brown, Hamilton, and New York State Poli...
Photographer: Marc Schultz

William Clark stabbed at a Rotterdam police sergeant Sunday, then cut an officer in the head before the officer fired four times, killing Clark, police said in a news conference Wednesday.

State police, who are leading the investigation, ruled that the shooting was justified.

Police said an officer and sergeant pleaded with Clark to drop his knife, and that the officer opened fire only on the attacking Clark after the sergeant fired a Taser at him. The Taser failed to connect.

Rotterdam police and state police held the news conference to discuss the weekend shooting. They did not release the names of the sergeant or the officer involved.

State police are handling the investigation at the request of the Rotterdam department. Police microphones recorded audio of the entire incident.

State police Maj. William Keeler said Wednesday morning that the investigation is complete except for probing what role Clark’s medical history may have played in the incident. The determination, however, is that the shooting was justified.

The Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office is to get the case next and will determine whether it should be presented to a grand jury.

The incident began at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday with a call from Clark’s mother at her residence at 1061 Roberta Road. She told police her son was armed with two knives, acting irrationally and breaking things, Keeler said.

Keeler said she described Clark as walking around the house, “slashing the air with a knife as if there was somebody there.” She tried to contact a “mobile crisis unit” but because weapons were involved, it became a police matter.

Medical records sought by police cover Clark’s mental health history, which police said is documented. He had “numerous” contacts with other law enforcement agencies, police said.

Clark’s mother told police that Clark was not taking his prescribed medication, Keeler said. Police said they are working to determine that officially through his medical records.

The family has been allowed to return to the home.

Clark was staying with his mother, who had moved into the house April 1, police said. Military records show he served nearly five years in the Marines, deploying to Iraq for six months in 2009. His service ended in May 2013.

A woman leaving the home Wednesday afternoon declined to comment, but gave the name of attorney E. Stewart Jones.

Jones confirmed Wednesday he has consulted with the family, but has not been retained.

Based on his conversation with the family, Jones said Clark was under the care of professionals at the VA Hospital in Albany. Jones did not detail Clark’s diagnosis, but said Clark “suffered the mental illness consequences of combat duty.”

At the house Sunday, the Rotterdam police officer and sergeant entered at the same time as a Schenectady County sheriff’s deputy. The officer has 16 years on the force, the sergeant 19 years, police said Wednesday. The deputy stayed with the mother as Rotterdam officers searched the home for Clark.

After several minutes they found Clark behind the door of a rear bedroom on the driveway side of the home, authorities said.

The officer and sergeant entered the room and ordered Clark to come out and drop his weapon, described as a kitchen knife, Keeler said.

“In fact, they pleaded with him,” Keeler said: “'Please come out, please drop the weapon, let us help you.’ Rather than comply, the subject lunged at the officers.”

Clark struck the sergeant in the shoulder area with the knife. The sergeant’s ballistic vest kept him from injury, Keeler said.

The sergeant fired the Taser at Clark, but the barbs didn’t connect. One embedded in Clark’s sweater, the other glanced away or missed.

Clark turned his attention to the officer and tried to stab him, police said. The officer moved to protect his face by holding his arm up, but then felt an impact to his head, town police spokesman Michael Brown said later. That’s when the officer began to fire.

“In defense of his partner and himself, the patrolman discharged his firearm four times at the subject,” Keeler said.

The officer received stitches for his wounds and was released Sunday night.

The officer had his service weapon drawn while the sergeant fired the Taser, per the department’s Taser policy, Brown said later. The entire physical altercation lasted just seconds, maybe four, Brown said.

Two shots hit Clark in the chest, one in the head. The fourth shot went into a wall. The sergeant began CPR and paramedics arrived quickly, but Clark died at the scene, police said

Clark is to be buried at Saratoga National Cemetery, according to his obituary.

Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, scook@dailygazette.net or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.

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