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Chief, mayor say shooting was justified as Albany Police release bodycam video

The knife carried by Jordan Young during his encounter with police Monday morning.
Dave Lucas
The knife Jordan Young threatened police with being being shot early Monday morning.

Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins has released footage of part of Monday morning's incident where police shot 32-year-old Jordan Young after he sprinted toward them carrying a knife. The chief and mayor say the shooting was justified.

Young was shot around 1:15 a.m., hit three times in the torso while police were responding to a 911 call. Hawkins says the officers are on paid administrative leave while the incident is under investigation.

"There have been many requests for the release of this video," said Hawkins. "And while it seems as if it's been a long time, let's keep in mind that it's actually only been three days since that incident occurred."

The video begins after the officers had cleared the initial scene after they responded to a 9-1-1 call from 117 Morris Street, where Young resided. Footage shows officers in their car searching the area for suspects or witnesses, when they happened upon Young, walking with his dog. Young did not obey police commands to stop, and ran toward officers brandishing a 7-inch knife.

This was a person that's in the middle of the road with a dog," Hawkins said. "And, you know, when they just asked a very benign question, the person pulls out a knife. And at that point, the dynamics of that encounter changed."

In a statement, Mayor Kathy Sheehan says the officer, who has not been identified, acted consistently with the department’s use of force policy. Chief Hawkins agrees: "You know, this was an officer that was under attack. And this was not just under attack, but under a deadly, deadly force attack. And the officer, in my opinion, took the necessary actions in order to protect himself at that point, " said Hawkins.

Hawkins says when Young charged officers, they had 4 seconds to react.

"Three shots were fired. All in the abdomen area in the torso area, and a taser was deployed."

Hawkins says the dog is in police custody and Young, who has yet to be charged with a crime, remains hospitalized in critical condition.

"I anticipate charges," Hawkins said. "You know, we're working closely with the district attorney's office and we don't know at this moment, what it what it is or what it may be, but anticipate charges."

Young’s family and spokesperson Alice Green, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Justice, say Young suffers from mental illness and was mistreated during previous run-ins with police. Hawkins disputes that characterization.

"We have complete video footage of our entire booking area that has been reviewed, and there was no beating, there was no assault upon that gentleman during that incident at all," said Hawkins, who added that the majority of similar cases involving distraught individuals that the department has handled have been peacefully resolved.

"We've successfully handled 9,000, nearly 9,000 of these sorts of incidents over the last three years, using training, community policing, de-escalation, all of those things that have been in place in this department for many, many years," Hawkins said. "What we have here is an individual despite all those efforts, and despite all the successes that we we've had, this individual decided for whatever reason to attack an officer, to have a deadly force attack against a police officer without provocation.”

Green, who showed up for the press conference but was denied entry, spoke with WAMC News just after Hawkins released the footage to reporters:

"We've been through this with Elllazar, you know, and we're still dealing with it, they shoot people, and we have to pick up the pieces," Green said. "And I, you know, I'm tired of having people stopped on the street, just because they're a Black male. And when you do that it escalates, almost always. And it's dangerous not only for the police department and police officers, but it's dangerous for the person who’s stopped on the street. We've got to get beyond that. They do not know how to handle mental health issues related to black people especially. They think that black men are dangerous, they're violent, and they're inherently criminal. And so they are viewed as that when the police come in contact with them. That has got to stop. OK, so I think this issue is not so much about that video. It’s what happened beyond the video, what happened before the video was taken, and what's going to happen to this man, after the video stopped.”

Hawkins says the body cam videos, shown in their entirety earlier this week to three common council members, have also been made available to the Civilian Police Review Board.

"This was a traumatic incident that no one wanted to happen," said Hawkins.

Board chair Nairobi Vives tells WAMC not all of the board members have viewed the footage, and is withholding comment until then.

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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