One of the area’s most recent police shootings has attracted the attention of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
In the wee hours of Sunday, April 17, Troy Sgt. Randall French shot and killed motorist Edson Thevinin of Watervliet, who allegedly was driving while intoxicated and fled a traffic stop. Police say the 37-year-old Thevinin drove his car at and pinned French against a patrol cruiser. French fired eight shots, fatally wounding Thevinin. French suffered non life-threatening injuries.
"The subject was ordered repeatedly to stop, did not do so, and in defense of himself, Sergeant French discharged his weapon." That's Troy Police Chief John Tedesco at a press conference recorded by Time Warner Cable News. "It would appear that the actions of Sgt. French are certainly in line with the law, department policy and his training, and we are fully supporting the sergeant."
Troy City Councilman Mark McGrath was at the scene shortly after the incident ended. "The Attorney General's office was there investigating. These were two officers, a sergeant and a well-decorated captain that unfortunately took someone's life. The cars were lined up exactly as was described, where there was considerable damage to both the marked and unmarked police vehicles and the individual’s car was in the middle."
By Friday, a grand jury that had been convened ruled not to indict French, a 12-year veteran of the force. Troy police would not comment on the ruling and have suspended comment altogether due to the ongoing investigation. A spokesman for Mayor Patrick Madden likewise cited the investigation as a barrier to offering public comment.
Last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo gave Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the green light to investigate whenever police kill unarmed suspects. President Barack Obama has called to equip police officers across the country with body cameras.
According to the New York Law Journal, the attorney general's investigations unit wants Troy police to provide data, including records of all radio transmissions connected to the Thevinin encounter as well as any video of the incident. The A.G.'s office did not respond to a request for comment. Tedesco told the Troy Record his department does not have any dashcams or body cameras, and cameras mounted in the vicinity of the altercation were not working at the time.
Again, Councilman McGrath. "I tried to explain to residents in my district this is not a law and order show, where someone's killed or they take someone's life and these officers just go to bed and get up the next day and carry on. It affects them. I think there was a proper investigation done. If the Attorney General does wanna come in and investigate, I would welcome it. I have no qualms about it."
Troy has been looking into the possibility of equipping its officers with body cameras: Troy City Council President Carmella Mantello is optimistic details can be worked out and the first units could be in use over the summer.
Other civilian deaths at the hands of police have made local headlines.
A knife-wielding man was shot dead by troopers outside his home Friday night in Berne, the incident considered “suicide by police.” The most notorious local case in recent memory is that of Dontay Ivy, a mentally ill Albany man with a heart condition who died after repeated tasings by Albany police. No officers were charged in the case. The Ivy Family and activist groups have called for the mayor, the officers involved, and the police chief to resign. Albany police are hoping to roll out some sort of body camera pilot program over the summer