What investigatory bodies will do next after Albany Police shoot suspect who stabbed officer
The mayor and police chief say the police shooting of a knife-wielding suspect in Albany Monday was justified, but the incident on Franklin Street will now come under scrutiny by several bodies.
Police Chief Eric Hawkins says officers responding to a domestic disturbance call interacted with 54-year-old Eric Frazier, talking with and even helping him remove his belongings from the premises. When officers discovered the man had an outstanding warrant issued in March for his involvement in a domestic incident at a different address with a different woman, they told him he would have to go to South Station to clear up the matter, at which point he became belligerent, produced a knife and stabbed an officer. Another officer fired a single shot into the suspect's chest as he continued attacking the first officer.
“The officer who fired the shot then held the suspect at gunpoint and deescalated the situation until the knife could be removed from the suspect’s hand," said Hawkins. "The officers at the scene then administered first aid to the suspect.”
Hawkins released body camera video soon after. Selected footage was first viewed by common councilors and members of the Albany Community Police Review Board. Reporters were shown excerpts the next morning.
On Thursday, police said Frazier was arraigned at Albany Medical Center. He faces attempted murder, assault, weapons and resisting arrest charges in relation to his confrontation with officers.
In addition, Frazier has been charged with criminal obstruction of breathing and assault for injuries he allegedly caused to the female victim of the original domestic incident inside the apartment.
Police say they've discovered Frazier struck the victim in the face several times and choked her by grabbing her neck causing several scratches and abrasion.
"I think the council will be pretty much happy that the procedure was followed to bring people in and let them see what was going on from the beginning," said Common Councilor Tom Hoey of the 15th ward, who chairs the Public Safety Committee. "So they're trying to be totally transparent. This was a tragic event, affecting the community. But I think what's important is that they did a news conference right away. And they did release the video as soon as they could."
Albany Community Police Review Board Chair Nairobi Vives also watched the video. She says the entire board will discuss the incident and provide a forum for community input.
"We will be having a special meeting on the 24th at 6 p.m.," Vives said. "We're inviting members of the public to discuss the incident, what we can share, and also to decide on whether the board will be investigating further. This is a virtual meeting. So we have shared, I believe our Zoom link as we usually do, I may be mistaken with that. But we also stream via Facebook as well."
Vives invites concerned residents to email questions or comments to the board in advance.
Hoey thinks police body cams are a godsend in situations like this.
“It's right there, what happened," said Hoey. "It's no, you know, somebody's testifying, they saw this or that, you know, the video captures the exact moment of what happened. Each officer had their video on, on their vest. I think that to me, that's the most important thing. I think everything was handled the way it should have been. But again, there's gonna be an investigation and I don't want to, you know, jump in. The CPRB will be looking at it, the police department internal controls will be looking at it. But from what I could see, again, my big takeaway from this is, you know, I'm so glad that we have this type of technology, so we can actually see what really happened.”
Hoey urges everyone to let the investigating agencies do their jobs. He doesn't think Monday's shooting should be defined by media reports.
“I watched a couple of news reports and one of them especially said that, you know, talking to the community, people didn't trust police," Hoey said. "And I think that's kind of a broad statement. You know, I don't know who they talked to in the community. But it bothers me that, you know, statements like that are made. I think the press should report what happened but not make judgments on it.”
The common council is expected to discuss the shooting at a meeting set for tonight.
Vives says the CPRB’s goals to improve communication between APD and the community and increase police accountability and credibility with the community are moving forward. She notes there are cases already under investigation and the board is working to broaden case access.
"To allow for most parts of the case files that we investigate to include video footage from body cams or dash cams and portions of personnel files, or the entire personnel file to be provided to the board electronically," said Vives. "We haven't gotten that up and going yet. “
Vives says increased access to files hinges on finalizing a confidentiality agreement.
Hawkins said Monday the New York State Attorney General’s Office, the Albany County District Attorney, the Albany Police Department and the Albany Community Police Review Board are investigating.
The AG's office says it only has jurisdiction when a civilian dies. The DA's office said it had no no updates yet. An APD spokesperson did not immediately reply to a request for comment.