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Albany settles case with city man paralyzed in police shooting in 2018 for $3 million

Ellazar Williams
Ellazar Williams

The city of Albany and a man who was partially paralyzed after being shot by a city police officer have reached an agreement to end a pending civil rights case.  

24-year old Ellazar Williams is paralyzed from the chest down after being shot by a detective during a foot chase in August 2018. An internal police investigation and an Albany County Grand Jury cleared Jay Olsen of any criminal wrongdoing.

The shooting came after police were called to Central Avenue for reports of a large fight involving a handgun. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, speaking with WAMC after the settlement was announced, says Williams matched a description of the suspect.

"The police chased the man believing that he had a gun, it turned out he had a very dangerous weapon, a very large knife. And our officers did exactly what we trained them to do when they are facing deadly force. So I continue to commend the work of the officers,” Sheehan said.

Center For Law and Justice Executive Director Alice Green has been critical of the case from the get-go and says video recordings clearly showed Williams was shot in the back while fleeing from police.

"And so we had to bring that to the community's attention. We thought it was very important that they know exactly what happened," Green said. "Elllazar, unfortunately, has been paralyzed since then, and the Center For Law and Justice and other groups like the Albany Medical College have worked to try to do what they could do, to help make him whole again, to help him deal with this paralysis. And to get him to want to live and to be able to be independent. So we've been working with him almost six years now. It's been a very sad story, all the way around."

Not long after the shooting, Williams' attorneys sued the city of Albany. In January 2019 Albany County District Attorney David Soares issued a statement that said in part "Punishment of Mr. Williams is not in anyone’s best interest."

Green says things took a turn down a darker road early this year when Williams was accused of giving a 14-year-old boy a loaded handgun with which the youth took his own life.

“He loved this little boy. And the young boy liked him a lot. And so when that happened, he was absolutely devastated,” said Green. 

Williams is in Albany County jail awaiting sentencing on charges stemming from the incident. This week a settlement was reached in his case against the city, which agreed to pay $3 million dollars. Sheehan says there was no admission of liability by the city.

 "I respect the fact that there are times where rather than going through a entire trial and the expense of a trial, that, you know, it makes sense to settle a case like this. And the plaintiff in this case, Ellazar Williams was willing to accept that settlement and I hope that we're able to move on from this,” Sheehan said.

Green says it isn't going to make Williams walk again, and he's going to "need a lot of support and help to deal with the money."

“We're going to be concerned about his housing. He will go to prison for up to 1 and 1/3 years. And then that will give us some time to keep in touch with him, and to also plan on how we can bring him back into the community so he can be an independent functioning person, and a contributor to the health and welfare of the community,” said Green.

Williams’ sentencing is set for July 12th.

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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