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Activists Raise Questions About Officer-Involved Shooting

WNYT screengrab

An Albany activist group has launched a probe of its own into the August shooting of a city man by a police officer.

“Justice or Else!” screened a presentation Tuesday night at the Albany Public Library, criticizing the police powerpoint presentation given earlier this month that officials say chronicles the August 20th shooting that left 19-year-old Ellazar Williams paralyzed from the waist down.

Marquinn Jennings chairs the group. He describes the group as "operating separately" from Williams and his attorney.   "What we're looking at here is him being paralyzed for the rest of his life. And he's determined to walk, which is beautiful. Now with regard to what we showed in our presentation in enhanced video was something we got , I believe from Channel 13. They showed something a few weeks ago and it kinda slipped through the radar. No one really saw it but they did air it. And we took it and we went over it."

The group says the footage proves Williams was shot in the back, not in the shoulder, as police said, a contention held by Alice Green of the Center for Law and Justice.

Anthony Muhammad is an Albany Representative of Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam. He tells WNYT:  "We don't want this officer, based on what we have seen, we don't want this officer nowhere around our community."

Jennings says although the video has raised some doubt among members of the community as to whether Detective James Olsen fired the shot that paralyzed Williams, it's time for Albany County District Attorney David Soares to charge Olsen with a crime.   "The pressure is now shifted to Soares and what he plans to do with information that he's received. Does he plan on doing an internal investigation with his own people? Is an outside entity coming in to check things out? And I think there's something that they will find there in that department. And that it needs to be looked at and thoroughly cleansed. And so we wanna put that out there because this is not the first time the community's had a problem with the police department."

Albany police spokesman Steve Smith:   "Regarding the recent incident on Elk Street, a thorough investigation was conducted and the findings for that investigation were released in full. The Albany County District Attorney's office is currently reviewing the incident."

Soares' office responded to a request for comment by email, saying "the matter is currently under review."

Jennings maintains the police narrative is false, and, in apparent reference to Albany's policing style and pop up neighborhood barbecues, says the community is tired of being minimized.  "We talk plainly about relations and things of that nature. We're not interested in someone liking us or feeding us hot dogs and hamburgers and things like that. We want justice."

Albany Common Councilman Derek Johnson told the TV station he was "stunned" after seeing the enhanced video screened at the meeting.  "I have to speak up on situations like this so that people of Albany understand that they have someone who is willing to  speak up and let others know what won't be accepted."

Jennings says "Justice or Else" plans to hold follow-up meetings which have yet to be organized and scheduled.

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