Albany Police Report Concludes Ellazar Williams Shooting Was "Justified"

Sep 7, 2018

Albany police gave an update at headquarters Thursday on the shooting of a 19-year-old city man by police last month.

Commander Mike Basile presented a 12-minute powerpoint presentation, resulting from an internal investigation, a 3-minute, 25-second timeline that included a 9-1-1 call, surveillance camera footage and police radio transmissions recorded the afternoon of Monday, August 20th, as officers responded to a call of a man with a gun outside a Central Avenue store.    "Key things in the call. Gun outside. Description of the individual. Black male, grey hoodie. Blue light jeans. Next slide is gonna be the dispatch. So what you're gonna hear is our dispatch unit being sent. These are police units and the sergeant to the address, what's going on and a description of the individual." Basile says all units across the city could hear that radio message. A carful of detectives did, and spotted the suspect.

The video ends with detectives chasing down and Officer James Olsen confronting Ellazar Williams in an Elk Street courtyard.

CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE | The dot in the middle of the red circle is Ellazar. This screenshot represents the quality of the video police were able to obtain as they probed the officer-involved shooting.
Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

"At one point Mr. Williams trips, falls down, and the knife becomes on the ground. Detective Olsen sees it. He's gonna do a radio transmission telling Mr. Williams 'stay on the ground.' Mr. Williams re-arms himself with the knife and becomes an imminent danger to the detective. [unintelligible] What he's saying there is 'get on the ground.' He witnessed Mr. Williams fall, drop the knife, re-arm himself and become an imminent danger to the detective.  At which point, the detective, recognizing the threat and fearing for his safety, is forced to fire two rounds from his duty weapon, striking Mr. Williams one time, in the left rear shoulder."

Three seconds of video shows Williams being shot.   "As soon as the individual makes a conscious decision to re-arm himself and the detective perceives that as an imminent danger, he becomes an imminent danger to the detective and the detective is authorized to use necessary force."  The footage shows Williams run, trip, fall, then, crouching, apparently reaching for an object that turned out to be a knife.

The three detectives were not wearing body cameras.

Williams remains hospitalized, paralyzed from the waist down. Community activist Alice Green of the Center for Law and Justice says Williams' lawyer advised him not to speak with police. Green says the police report is lacking.  "I'm not being critical of their report. I'm sure that they did everything they could with the information they had. But they don't have all the information. For instance, they don't have the medical report, OK, I've seen the bullet wound and we might have a disagreement about what is a shoulder and what is a back."

Albany's new police chief, on his second day of official duty, said he wasn't in town but kept tabs on the shooting.   "I was just briefed on this incident 24 hours ago."  Eric Hawkins says he believes the city's commitment to community policing has helped move the case along peacefully.  "As I watched this from afar from Michigan, one of the things that really struck me ws the level of cooperation between this community and this police department, because when incidents like this happen across the country, oftentimes we see that there's contentiousness between the police department and the community. There is this open distrust and it sometimes results in civil unrest." 

Detective Olsen is on administrative duty. His colleagues, Lawrence Heid and Christopher Cornell, are back on the job.

WNYT reports the Albany County District Attorney's office is reviewing the case.

Albany Police Community Notification 18-155 by WAMC Northeast Public Radio on Scribd