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Chief, mayor pledge transparency after Albany Police officer shoots 32-year-old man following 911 call

Albany Center For Law & Justice Executive Director Alice Green speaks with Chief Eric Hawkins at Police HQ, January 24, 2022.
Dave Lucas
Albany Center For Law & Justice Executive Director Alice Green speaks with Chief Eric Hawkins at Police HQ, January 24, 2022.

The Albany police chief and mayor are pledging transparency after an officer shot a 32-year-old man while responding to a 911 call overnight.

Albany Police say an officer, who has not been identified, shot the 32-year-old man, also not yet identified. Police say they responded to a call about an apparent home invasion around 1 a.m. at a residence on Morris Street between New Scotland Avenue and Knox Street and saw a man nearby holding a knife.

Police say the man had a knife and a dog and sprinted aggressively toward the officers with the knife still in his hands, ignoring commands to drop it. An officer shot him in the torso. The man was transported to Albany Medical Center in critical condition.

Police say one officer was treated for a dog bite to his arm, while two others were not injured.

“Having the opportunity to review this incident on body worn camera my initial assessment is that this was an appropriate use of force,” said Chief Eric Hawkins, who addressed reporters hours after the shooting. “This incident just happened within the last few hours still an active investigation there's still a lot of work that needs to be done but I felt that it was important to at least advise the public on the information that I have access to right now and the information that I'm privy to,” Hawkins said.

A chain of events began with a police radio transmission following a 911 call, as captured by local outlet Albany Proper.

“117 Morris street crossing Knox Street in Scotland Avenue – male caller states a group inside the home has a gun to his head on the stairs - disconnected no further information zero 51.”

Hawkins said, “Further information from the officers on the scene was that an individual associated with the residents climbed onto the roof and was running across rooftops. Two Albany Police officers who were riding together in a marked Albany Police car began to patrol around the neighborhood in an effort to locate the person running on the rooftops. And all while this was going on, we had officers who were at the original scene who were securing that scene to figure out what exactly was happening there. After a few minutes, the officers observed a man walking in the middle of New Scotland Avenue with a large dog, and they stopped the man in an attempt to investigate. As the officers exited their vehicle to speak with the man, they observed that the man was holding a knife, which he then placed against the dog's throat as he began to yell at the officers. “

Hawkins says officers made many efforts to de-escalate the situation; the man released the dog but advanced toward officers.

“As he sprinted towards this officer, the officer continued yelling commands to ‘stop,’’ drop the weapon’," Hawkins said. "The officer backpedaled, as this man sprinted towards this officer. The officer eventually struck, fired his weapon is struck the man several times in the torso area.”

Hawkins says there may have been an attempt to subdue the suspect with a taser and is reviewing bodycam footage. It’s not clear if the video will be released to the public. The Attorney General's office, which oversees investigations into police shootings, and the Albany County District Attorney have been briefed.

Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Alice Green says some are comparing the shooting with the 2018 shooting of then-19-year-old Ellazar Williams, who was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot while fleeing from officers.

“But we're you know, we're holding judgment, withholding judgment till we see the body cam," said Green. "And hopefully that's going to be soon. So because I know that I've already gotten 100 calls at my house this morning. So I know the community is anxious to know what happened. And it's true. They're going , it's going to remind them of the Ellazar situation. So I just hope that the person who's shot survives, that's my main concern right now. But we will be keeping a close watch on this and communicating with the department.”

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said in a statement she echoes “Chief Hawkins’ commitment to transparency and cooperation with external agencies.”

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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