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New Information Released In Albany Officer-Involved Shooting

The Acting Albany Police Chief has met with eight community residents and Center for Law and Justice staff members in the wake of an officer-involved shooting that left a young man paralyzed. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas has an update to a story we first brought you last week.

Alice Green, the executive director of the Center For Law and Justice, says Ellazar Williams, the 19-year-old shot by Albany Police August 20th, was allowed to receive his first visitor, a female acquaintance, Friday afternoon.

Green says the visit came after Williams was assigned a public defender and then charged with Menacing a Police Officer and Criminal Possession of a Weapon. 

After blasting the police over what she cited as a lack of communication, Green said she too was able to visit Williams, which happened on Sunday. "We also, at the Center For Law and Justice, had a meeting with the acting chief, Michael Basile. We also met with seven or eight members of the Albany community who were interested in finding out more information. So that took place yesterday."

Speaking Wednesday, Albany Police Department spokesman Steve Smith confirms the briefing took place.   “But, from an official standpoint at the police department the investigation is still ongoing. We are very confident that we’ll be wrapping up the investigation soon and we will be speaking about what we have learned through the investigation. We’re just not at that point just yet.”

Williams remains hospitalized.   "Mr. Williams was arraigned yesterday as well, the report from that arraignment was issued and it named Detective James Olsen as the officer who fired the shot that hurt Mr. Williams. He's now paralyzed from the waist down and still in the hospital," said Green.

Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Dr. Alice Green
Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Dr. Alice Green during an August 24 press conference at the Center.

Smith told WAMC last week the shooting came after police were called to the 200 block of Central Avenue for reports of a large fight involving a handgun.   "When the detectives who were in the vicinity of the area saw a suspect matching the description, they attempted to stop that suspect and the suspect fled on foot, leading the officer son a foot chase for several blocks to the rear of 395 Elk Street."

Green says Detective Olsen fired two shots at Williams, who is charged with felony menacing a police officer and misdemeanor possession of a weapon, a knife. 

The Times Union cites court documents in which police say Williams allegedly ran toward a detective while holding that knife and refused to drop it before he was shot.  That runs contrary to a statement Green made during a Friday press conference:   "Unfortunately, Mr. Williams was shot in the back somewhere, and the bullet went into pierced his lung and is now lodged in his spine. He is, uh has been diagnosed as having paralysis which they indicate would unfortunately be permanent. So we're really concerned about that. He's paralyzed from the waist down and will never be able to walk again."

Complicating the investigation is the fact that detectives were not wearing body cameras.   WNYT reports surveillance cameras watching the school parking lot where Williams was shot likely "captured part of the confrontation."

Because Williams allegedly carried a knife, he was technically "armed," meaning the case would not be under consideration for review by the New York State Attorney General's office as per Governor Andrew Cuomo's executive order.   "The acting chief indicated that the investigation is nearing its completion and it should be wrapped up in the next few days and then the report will be released to the community as soon as possible."

Olsen, who shot Williams, joined the APD during the 1990s.  In 2003, he was seriously injured, hospitalized in critical condition after tumbling off a second-floor porch while trying to make an arrest. The Times Union says Olsen was named in two police brutality claims, in 2004 and 2005.

According to the Empire Center’s database of public salaries, Detective Olsen earned more than $160,000 in salary and overtime.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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