Two state troopers shot and killed a distraught man in one of the rural Albany County hill towns Friday night, marking the third weekend in a row that the Capital Region has had a fatal police shooting.
The shooting of Carl Baranishyn, 51, of High Point Road, Berne, came after he called police and then charged at responding officers outside his home, armed with two knives, state police said today.
“In this case, from everything I know now, the troopers’ actions were justified,” state police Troop G Commander Maj. William Keeler said at a press conference at Troop G headquarters in Latham.
An autopsy done at Albany Medical Center by Albany County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Sikirica determined Baranishyn’s death to be a “suicide by cop,” Keeler said.
The shooting in Berne occurred at about 11:30 p.m. Friday. It is the third recent fatal police shooting, following last Sunday’s incident in Troy in which a motorist was shot after pinning a city police officer between two vehicles, and an April 10 incident in which Rotterdam police killed a knife-wielding mentally ill man inside his home.
Keeler said such violent incidents “come with the territory.” He said troopers are trained in dealing with people with mental-health problems.
“We deal with these issues hundreds of times a week,” he said. “Sometimes things don’t go as planned.”
Keeler and state police Capt. Robert Patenaude said Friday night’s incident began when Baranishyn himself called police threatening harm to himself or others, including law-enforcement officers.
The two troopers who responded to the residence in a wooded rural area found a man walking along the road in front of Baranishyn’s home, carrying a knife in each hand. Keeler said the weapons were later determined to be 3- or 4-inch folding knives.
In a press release, state police said Baranishyn refused to comply with numerous commands to drop the knives, then “charged” at the troopers. Both fired their weapons while Baranishyn was 10 or 15 feet away.
Keeler noted that the incident happened in darkness, making the use of less-lethal devices like a Taser more difficult.
Police refused to identify the troopers involved while the incident remains under investigation. He said they have been given time off to seek counseling and spend with their families.
Immediately after the shooting, troopers administered first aid, including using a defibrillator carried in all patrol cars. The Helderberg Ambulance Squad responded but was unable to revive Baranishyn.
Keeler and Patenaude said Baranishyn was previously known to law enforcement for incidents like threatening people who trespassed on his land, but his only known arrest was on a minor charge in Pennsylvania in 2004.
A 2009 story in the Altamont Enterprise in which Baranishyn was quoted complaining about snowmobiles trespassing on his land said he and his family had lived there since the 1960s, and state police had previously responded to his complaints.
Keeler said Albany County sheriff’s deputies had responded to a call from the residence about an hour earlier, but were not involved in the shooting.
State troopers and the Albany County district attorney’s office are continuing to investigate the incident.
Troy and Rotterdam incidents
The recent Troy and Rotterdam incidents also remain under investigation.
The incident last Sunday morning on Hoosick Street in Troy left 37-year-old Edson Thevenin of Watervliet dead, after he allegedly pinned Sgt. Randy French against a police car with his vehicle. French fired eight shots, killing Thevenin.
Troy police said the incident began at 3:30 a.m. when French tried to pull over Thevenin’s vehicle on Sixth Avenue on suspicion of DWI and Thevenin nearly struck French with his vehicle as he fled. His vehicle was stopped again after hitting a barrier on Hoosick Street. French pulled in front of his vehicle and got out of his car, at which point police said Thevenin used his car to pin the officer.
The Rensselaer County district attorney’s office is investigating.
The Schenectady County district attorney’s office is investigating the April 10 incident in Rotterdam that led to the death of 30-year-old William Clark. State police said the shooting appeared justified.
In that incident, Clark’s mother called police about 11:30 a.m. to say her son was walking around the house slashing the air with a knife as if there were someone there. Clark had a history of mental health issues.
Two Rotterdam police officers and a Schenectady County sheriff’s deputy responded, and shot Clark after he stabbed at Sgt. Keith Collins, then cut Officer Mark Frodyma on the head.