Last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo gave Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the green light to investigate whenever police in any New York community kill unarmed suspects. Now, Cuomo has empowered Schneiderman to look into a police shooting that the Rensselaer County D.A. probed and dismissed.
On Sunday, April 17, Troy Police Sgt. Randall French shot and killed a 37-year old motorist who allegedly was driving while intoxicated and fled a traffic stop. Police say Edson Thevinin drove his car at and pinned French against a patrol cruiser. French fired eight shots, fatally wounding Thevinin.
Rensselaer County D.A. Joel Abelove sent the case to a grand jury that quickly decided not to indict French, a 12-year veteran of the force. Now, Abelove is being sued by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who says the D.A. defied the executive order giving the AG investigatory powers.
Schneiderman met with reporters Monday in Albany during the New York State Court of Appeals Law Day. "We're at the beginning of the investigation. I don't want to prejudge but we are we're pursuing this aggressively and we're gonna do it thoroughly and fairly, and that may mean things stay quiet for a little while."
Two civilians who witnessed the incident have come forward: the Times Union says one of them gave police a written statement that was NOT presented to the grand jury. The other shot cellphone video of the incident. The newspaper reports that individual recently took a civil service exam to become a police officer and believes French may have opened fire before Thevenin's vehicle allegedly pinned the officer's legs against his police cruiser. Police previously insisted video of the encounter did not exist. Schneiderman's lawsuit stated Abelove was withholding information. "The one thing you wanna avoid at all costs, is there being the wrong prosecutor asserting jurisdiction and then be subject to an attack later. The idea here is to get it right, and to have the right prosecutor pursuing it. And our primary concern was that our jurisdiction was not respected, the governor's order was violated."
Troy Mayor Patrick Madden says the city has no involvement in the jurisdictional dispute. "He can expect our full cooperation on this. We are only interested in a thorough and fair investigation." In a written statement, Madden said his administration is "mindful of the trauma this incident has caused to the Thevenin family and Officer French."
D.A. Abelove is not commenting. Schneiderman says the case goes back to court Friday. He suggested that he may release more information then.