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Investigation continues after six are shot in Albany student neighborhood

As Albany police were attempting to quell a disturbance in a Pine Hills student neighborhood early Sunday, six people a block away were hit by gunfire.

The Albany Police Department says officers were clearing a large crowd on Hudson Avenue between Quail and Ontario Streets around 3 a.m. While breaking up the large fight, where police said glass bottles were thrown at officers, police responded to gunshots heard in the nearby area of Hamilton and Ontario Streets, where five people ranging in age from 19 to 29 were found with gunshot wounds.

All victims were transported to the hospital where two were reported in critical condition and three were reported in stable condition.

A sixth victim, a 17-year-old Schenectady resident, reportedly traveled home to Schenectady where she contacted police and told officers she was shot in the abdomen on Hamilton Street in Albany. She was taken to Albany Medical Center where she was being treated for a non-life-threatening injury.

Albany police tell WAMC Monday that all six of the wounded appear to have non-life threatening injuries. The investigation is ongoing, there have been no arrests and there are no plans to release the names of the victims.

A spokesperson for the University at Albany tells WAMC "Over the last week, we have reinforced with students – including in door-to-door visits with APD and UPD in areas where many students live – that there is no safe way for them to join large gatherings in midtown. Sunday morning’s events make that even more alarmingly clear."

Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan said the incident “shocks the conscience” and called on the leaders of student groups to work with her administration, city police department, and college administrators to “stop disrupting their neighbors' quality of life and assaulting police officers, and to ensure they hold their peers accountable."

"It isn't just students living in this neighborhood," Sheehan said. "And we're not looking to blame students, or UAlbany or the fact that this is a neighborhood where a lot of college students choose to live, whether they go to Hudson Valley, St. Rose, Maria, any of the number of colleges that we are fortunate to have here in and around the City of Albany. And the statement from the University of Albany that there is no safe way to engage in these mass gatherings is very true. Anything could happen, from a medical emergency to, unfortunately, what we saw happen with the shooting. And so anytime we have these very large crowds, it makes it very difficult for the police to be able to keep everyone safe, particularly when you add alcohol to that mix. And there was a lot of alcohol being consumed, a mass, mass gathering of people."

A spokesperson for the College of St. Rose says students had been moving in over the weekend to begin classes Monday. None of the injured were St. Rose students. In a statement, the college added:

"The College is invested in the city’s efforts to create a safer Albany, and President Marcia White has spoken with the mayor on many occasions to express our institution’s concern about gun violence in Albany. We sent an advisory to our students on Sunday about this weekend’s incident along with personal safety guidance. We plan to continue to work with Mayor Sheehan and the Albany Police Department."

10th Ward Common Councilor Owusu Anane represents the neighborhood. He characterized the weekend incidents as "an outrage."

"And it's something that I will not sit idle by," Anane said. "The Albany Police Department is investigating the incident. And I'm confident that whoever the perpetrators are, they will be caught and punished to the full extent of the law. As I've said many times, we have a right to safe streets and in conjunction with the mayor's office and APD we will do all that we can to prevent incidents like this from happening and from occurring. And for those who want to terrorize, endanger and harm the residents in our neighborhood, they will be caught and they will be punished."

Sheehan, working at home with COVID-19, says even if there had not been a shooting, the melee would have made headlines.

"Because of the size of this event and how unruly that event got," said Sheehan. "And so we are meeting later today, I have a Zoom meeting with university leaders, I've asked them to invite student leaders from their campus so that we can make sure that we're getting information out to students, setting the expectation and talking about the consequences of engaging in the behaviors, particularly if there's underage drinking that is going on. The University at Albany will take disciplinary action against students for off campus activities that violate their rules. And so we want to make sure that young people have that information and are not in a situation where they're calling their parent to say that notwithstanding the fact that they just arrived at the University at Albany, they are now being sent home.”

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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