It was a case that stunned the community, angered activists, and even pitted the district attorney against the governor. Today, some resolution — but not for family of Donald “Dontay” Ivy. As WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports, the Albany County D.A. announced police won't face charges in the case of the African American man who died in April after officers subdued him with a stun gun.
In an unusually lengthy press conference, District Attorney David Soares grimly told reporters gathered at his downtown office that a grand jury declined to file charges after an investigation that determined the officers weren't criminally responsible for Ivy's death.
"I want the community to take heart that every effort has been put into digging up as much information as possible as to what transpired in the early morning hours in April that led to the death of Donald Ivy."
Police say Ivy was walking near his home along Lark Street near Second Street when three officers stopped him. Through observing his body language, they believed Ivy could have been carrying a weapon. At some point their interaction became physical. The 39-year old Ivy, who suffered from schizophrenia and had heart problems, was unarmed when Tasered by police and later died.
Soares says that a pathologist determined the Taser was not the cause of death, but did add to stress from Ivy's struggle with police that led to his fatal heart attack.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Police Chief Brendan Cox held their own news conference shortly after Soares met the press.
"We know now, only after the fact that Mr. Ivy not only had a mental health issue, but that he suffered from a pretty severe cardiac condition as well. So we have the benefit of knowing that in hindsight. That's not something that our officers have the benefit of when they're making decisions on a day to day basis."
Sheehan says there’s a need for a community conversation about what citizens want officers to do to keep them safe. Albany police will soon be outfitted with body cameras, which Soares said would have been very helpful in the Ivy case.
Chief Cox says Ivy lied to police when he was asked if he'd ever been arrested.
"They grew more concerned that he did in fact have something on him, potentially a weapon, and they were concerned for their safety and also for his safety and had to ensure that he did not in fact have anything on him at that point. A weapon."
Sheehan says everyone has a role to play in ensuring that the community is safe.
"The best way for us to move forward is for all of us to recognize that if we're going to build trust in the community, we have to start talking to one another."
Sheehan added the commitment is there to working to take down walls and build a level of trust needed to keep the community and the police safe.
Soares had his own message for the community:
"We should all learn from the example that's being set by those that are closest to Donald, which is, which has been, grace. I would also say to the community that in the not too distant future, I am going to be available, and I will be in the community discussing this case. I would also say to the community that my intention, moving forward, is to take this issue on as aggressively as I possibly can. And I will be calling to task my other partners in law enforcement, faith-based organizations and other leaders who I believe also have a responsibility to contribute to the betterment of young people of color in the city of Albany."
Here's a link to Soares’ full report.