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Man killed by police was shot five times, City Council member says 

click to enlarge Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan.
The man who was killed by Rochester police gunfire early Wednesday was shot five times, according to a City Council member who said she viewed footage of the shooting captured by police body-worn cameras.

Mary Lupien, the Council member, said the man was clutching a knife and appeared to be in mental distress when he was approached by police.

"They had guns drawing shouting, 'Drop the knife' and they had him in the spotlight," Lupien said. "So, the guy was saying things like, 'I'm dangerous,' 'Shoot me.'"

"He was very obviously mentally ill, they should have known that from the call that came in," Lupien said. "They should've anticipated that he wasn't going to be able to follow commands. There was no attempt for non-lethal options."

The officers did back up but the man "started kind of jogging toward the officer and that's when he unloaded five shots into his upper body," Lupien recalled.

Her description of the event shed new light on the shooting, which police have cast as an officer firing "at least one shot at the man."

Officers shot the man on West Main Street around 3 a.m. outside of  Open Door Mission as he allegedly threatened them and moved toward them with a knife in his hand, according to police. A statement from the Open Door Mission referred to the man as one of their guests, indicating that he had been staying there and may have been homeless.

During a news briefing Wednesday afternoon,  Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said that the man had not yet been identified.

"We have not made a positive identification yet," Herriott-Sullivan said. "Obviously our priority is to find out and let family members know."

Herriott-Sullivan said officers responded to a 911 call in which the caller described the man as having taken a knife from the shelter and going outside.

Earlier in the day, Capt. Mark Mura said that when police arrived at the scene they found the man outside cutting himself with the knife.  He added that the man allegedly said he wanted to kill police.

According to police, as the officers called for less-lethal weapons to subdue him, including a Taser and a beanbag round, the man moved toward them.

Mura said an officer, whose name has not been released, fired at least one shot at the man. Later, as technicians processed the scene, markers suggesting that several rounds had been fired could be seen on the ground.

click to enlarge Rochester police examine an area outside of Open Door Mission where early Wednesday an officer shot a man who police said was brandishing a large knife. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • Rochester police examine an area outside of Open Door Mission where early Wednesday an officer shot a man who police said was brandishing a large knife.
Herriott-Sullivan, who stated that she had watched body-worn camera footage of the incident, said officers had also tried to get away from the man.

"For the amount of space that they traveled in order to avoid a confrontation, it was substantial," Herriott-Sullivan said.

Herriott-Sullivan noted that the department is conducting internal and criminal investigations, which is standard procedure when an officer shoots someone, and that the state Attorney General's Office is determining whether it has jurisdiction over the case.

A 2015 executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which has been amended several times, essentially gives jurisdiction over cases of civilians who die in police custody to the attorney general. Cuomo issued the order following the death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City Police.

District Attorney Sandra Doorley has asked the city not to publicly release the body-worn camera footage.

"At this point we are in conversations with the Attorney General's Office to determine who has jurisdiction," said Callie Marianetti, a spokesperson for the District Attorney's Office.

Marianetti added that the office wasn't comfortable with telling the police department it could release the footage until the man was identified and his family notified.

A statement sent by the Police Accountability Board around 1 p.m. said that its chair, Shani Wilson, had requested the body-worn camera footage for members to review but had not received it.

When asked about why the city's Person in Crisis team or the county's Forensic Intervention Team didn't respond to the scene, Herriott-Sullivan said the whole incident unfolded over a matter of minutes and they wouldn't have had time to get there. She also noted that the Person in Crisis team wouldn't be sent to respond to a call for an armed person.

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, the Rochester Police Locust Club asked the public to withhold judgement regarding the incident.

“A sudden loss of life should only be seen for what it ultimately is, a tragedy," the statement read. "We ask the community to recognize the challenging place that our members found themselves in. Despite their best efforts in a very difficult and dangerous encounter, a life was lost. We ask the public to keep all involved in their
thoughts and prayers. We also ask that patience and judgment be reserved while the investigation into this incident goes forward.”

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com. Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at gino@rochester-citynews.com.

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