Rochester man shot to death by officer on Murray Street had ‘replica’ gun, RPD chief asks for patience amid investigations

Body-worn camera footage released from officer-involved shooting

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Two officers are on leave after a man armed with a replica gun was shot and killed by police on Christmas Eve morning.

The man’s identity has not been released. The police chief says the officers’ names will likely be released next week.

Chief David Smith showed body-worn camera footage of the deadly officer-involved shooting at the Public Safety Building on Wednesday.

According to RPD, it all started around 8:30 a.m. when officers responded to a 911 call about two men, one with a gun, walking on Murray Street toward Lyell Avenue.

In the video, which was edited by RPD, the first officer can be seen talking to three people on a sidewalk. The first officer on scene talks to them, explaining that police had gotten calls. Another police car shows up. One of the three – a man – moves a few feet down the sidewalk. The officer starts telling him to “hang out” when the man starts running.

He runs into the driveway of a boarded-up home, his right hand holding what appears to be a gun. The officer has his weapon raised and orders him to stop and drop the gun. The officer shoots five times and the suspect falls to the ground. He’s ordered onto his stomach; the firearm can be seen on the driveway to his right.

The first officer orders him to put his hands behind his back while another officer calls for an ambulance.

Police began emergency medical aid until ambulance crews and the Rochester Fire Department arrived. The man, who was in his 40s, was taken to Strong Hospital where he died.

“During our processing of the scene, a replica firearm was recovered from the driveway. Under our general orders in New York State penal law, officers are justified to use deadly physical force in defense of themselves or others. As I said on Sunday preliminarily, it appears that the officer was in line with those regulations.” Chief David Smith said.

As with any officer-involved shooting, the state Attorney General’s Office, Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, and RPD’s Major Crimes Unit are investigating. In addition, the Rochester Police Accountability Board is investigating.

Smiths explained the officer had 11 years of experience, and followed his training by assuming his life was in danger.

“Fleeing is when you throw the gun down and you run away, or when you’re running away with a gun in your pocket — you’re fleeing, you’re trying to evade arrest. When you are running with a gun in your hand, I assume that you are not fleeing, you are trying to obtain a better tactical position. There is a difference,” said Smith.

Smith said it was very difficult for police to determine whether the gun was real until it was processed by technicians.

“The body-worn camera tells a part – a very small part of the story. If this was the whole story, the investigation would be over. We all know the [State] Attorney General’s Office does very thorough investigations and it will take some time and there’s a lot of factors to come into play,” Smith said.” But there’s a lot of things we don’t know. Why is he carrying a replica gun? Does he possibly think it’s real? We don’t know. Maybe he just came into possession of it. Why, if he does know it’s a replica, why doesn’t he simply say, ‘I have this on me because there’s no law against it’ and then he’s walking away. Why does he make the determination to run? We don’t know. Why, when he’s running, does he decide he’s going to pull it out and hold it in his hand? We don’t know. It’s speculation.”

This is three seconds, and it’s going to take months to unravel and put together the minutiae of this.

Chief David Smith

Mayor Malik Evans released this statement about the officer-involved shooting:

“The officer-involved shooting on Christmas Eve was a tragedy for our city. One person lost his life and other lives were changed forever. My condolences are with the family of the person who was killed, and I am thankful that there were no other injuries. I am grateful to the men and women in law enforcement for their efforts to keep our community safe. The City of Rochester is actively cooperating with the investigation being conducted by the New York State Attorney General’s Office and is also conducting our own internal investigation.”

Rochester City Council President Miguel A. Meléndez, Jr. and City Councilmembers Mike Patterson, Willie J. Lightfoot, Sr., LaShay D. Harris, Mitch Gruber and Jose Peo released the following statment:

The officer-involved shooting on Christmas Eve is being investigated by the Attorney General, as prescribed by New York State law.  We offer our condolences to the family, friends, and loved ones of the deceased, and everyone involved in this tragic incident. In the interest of justice – justice for the deceased, for the community, and for the officers involved – we call on Attorney General James to be certain her investigation is fair, judicious, and transparent.”