News10NBC Investigates: Cop describes his moment of shoot or don't shoot?

October 31, 2018 06:30 PM

When he saw the barrel of the shotgun come towards him, he fired. 

That's what a Greece Police sergeant told News10NBC when he faced that dreaded question -- shoot or don't shoot?  

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This week, News10NBC is investigating how police make those split-second, life-threatening decisions. 

"And you remember seeing the gun?" Brean asked.  

"Oh yeah," Sgt. Jared Rene said. "Oh yeah."

It was November of 2014. 

Sgt. Rene was called to a house on Stone Road in Greece where the dogs were loose, the doors were open and the oven was on. 

Sgt. Rene says after identifying themselves, he and his partner found Thomas Manza lying in his bedroom, unconscious, holding a shotgun with his finger on the trigger. 

Sgt. Jared Rene, Greece Police Department: "He was sitting up attempting to point the gun right at myself and another officer I was with, yeah."

Sgt. Rene shot twice. One bullet hit Manza's arm. The other hit his side. 

Sgt. Rene: "You're absorbing information quickly. And then, there's a reaction." 

That's what News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean experienced when he did the shoot or don't shoot training with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.  

In one instance, a man was coming at Brean with a crowbar. 

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "Do me a favor and back up."

Suspect: "I'm going to kill you." 

Brean: "Do me a favor and back up."

Brean made the decision to fire the training weapon and the suspect went down. 

Click the links below to watch what happened when Brean and two members of our community went through the reality-based police training. 

News10NBC Investigates: Shoot or don't shoot?

News10NBC Investigates: Watch Berkeley Brean face 'shoot or don't shoot'

Sgt. Rene: "I was trying to process it in my mind quickly -- what just happened? Was that okay? Did he, you know? And then move on."

According to data compiled by The Washington Post, 62 people have been shot and killed by police in New York state since 2015. 

Seven of the 62 happened in our area. 

According to the data, in every single case, the person shot had a gun and five of them shot at police. 

Brean: "Do you ever think about the guy you shot?"

Sgt. Rene: "Yeah. Yeah, from time to time."

Brean: "What do you think about?" 

Sgt. Rene: "Um, I think that, I'm glad he's still alive."

Thomas Manza got out of prison four weeks ago. In 2015, he pled guilty to drug possession and menacing a police officer and got two years in prison. 

Records from The New York State Department of Corrections show he violated his parole and went back to prison for a year. 

News10NBC was not able to track him down so we talked to the lawyer who defended him, Matthew Parrinello. 

"He was in his house, minding his own business," Parrinello said. 

Parrinello says Manza was on the floor passed out on drugs. Parrinello says there were guns in the room and Manza was holding one of them. 

Parrinello: "As he rose up, he was confronted by somebody. He didn't know it was police at the time and that he was then shot."

Brean: "Knowing what you know, was the shooting justified?"

Parrinello: "I think, probably in the police officer's mind, it was."

Brean: "One thing people will say, including reporters, is there something else you could have done? 

Sgt. Rene: "Yeah."

Brean: "Could you have used your taser? Could you have backed away?"

Sgt. Rene: "I think the number one question we get first is - why? Why did it have to happen? Was there another way? Was there something else you could have done?"

Could Sergeant Rene have shot his suspect in the hand? Could Brean have shot at the crowbar? 

Sgt. Rene: "But I think the reality behind that is, that's not how we train. We're trained to stop the threat and that's it. And that's shooting at someone's center mass."


Berkeley Brean

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