Community Forum Ponders Use of Force Against Ellazar Williams

Dec 19, 2018

Back in September, the Albany Police Department cleared Detective James Olsen of any wrongdoing in the August 20th shooting that left 19-year-old Ellazar Williams paralyzed from the waist down.  Last Friday, Albany County District Attorney David Soares released a report indicating an Albany County Grand Jury did the same. Now, a lawsuit has been filed and activists are meeting in the city...

D.A. David Soares, a Democrat, said the Grand Jury considered all of the evidence presented over a span of three weeks and weighed all of the factors to determine justification for Detective Olsen’s actions, ultimately finding that his actions fell within the limits of the law.  Olsen and two other detectives were in the area when a 9-1-1 call went out reporting a man with a gun and an accompanying description matching Williams. Police say when they caught up with Williams he ran, prompting Olsen to lead a foot chase.  Soares said "I hate to get into the weeds on this because it can be viewed as a matter of semantics but there is no direct, there's no point in time when the officer was directly behind Mr. Williams. They both converged upon the location arriving at an angle."

Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins issued a statement saying he was satisfied with both the internal police and grand jury's findings. He added he could not discuss any pending litigation.

This week, attorneys representing Williams filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, alleging Olsen used excessive force.   "We have no information to suggest that Williams committed any criminal offense at any point."

Attorney James Knox tells Spectrum news that other surveillance video, not viewed by the Grand Jury, shows Williams fleeing from police, tripping, falling, dropping a large knife, then picking it up, getting up and getting shot in the back.   "They appear to say that Williams got up, turned and ran toward Olsen. The video clearly contradicts that."

Tonight Alice Green, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Justice, is speaking out at a community forum at the Howe Library on Schuyler Street, offering her view of the presentation and decision by the Albany County Grand Jury. Green says investigations so far have been based on what Detective Olsen "might have believed:" that his life was in danger.   "Grand juries and district attorneys tend to believe police officers, and I think that's what happened in this particular case. Which is not to say that we don't believe Mr. Olsen. It's just that, you know, people's beliefs are based on a lot of different things. It could be based on stereotyping, could be based on experience, training, fear..."

Green urges those interested to watch the video.