New York State Police issued an update today in the case of a local elementary school teacher shot and killed by police.
Shenendehowa teacher Brian Skinner died in a hail of police gunfire July 28th, when police say he charged at officers who had gathered outside his Glenville home in response to two 9-1-1 calls.
In one of those calls, Skinner told dispatchers he was in the basement, and there was a man upstairs, his boyfriend, walking around with a gun. "He made it into a very threatening situation, to make sure that the police came there, ready to confront a man with a gun."
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney says it turns out there was no boyfriend and no indication that Skinner was gay. Police believe it was apparently part of his plan to die - "suicide by cop."
Officers arriving on the scene around 11 p.m. said they observed lights in the house being turned off. Then, State Police Captain Richard O'Brien says, the 32-year old Skinner emerged from the home brandishing a 12-inch long kitchen knife. "The officers gave repeated orders for Mr. Skinner to drop the knife. He ignored the commands, ran toward the responding officers on the west side of his property while wielding the knife over his head in a menacing manner."
O'Brien says officers had no choice but to shoot. Skinner was struck six times before collapsing. There were no body cams on any of the eight Scotia or Glenville officers at the scene. In fact, no recordings of any kind were made that night. "Within an hour of the incident, the Glenville Police Department requested the New York State Police assume the investigation. Troop G personnel from SP Princetown, along with our major crimes unit and our forensic identification unit, responded to the scene to conduct the investigation in conjunction with the Glenville Police Department, the Scotia Police Department and the District Attorney's office of Schenectady County."
State Police determined the shooting was justified. Scotia Police Chief Pete Frisoni describes the officers involved as "traumatized" by the incident. A "No police officer comes on the job and begins their career wanting to shoot someone and wanting to kill someone. Unfortunately many times, and we've seen that more and more lately, that officers are put in a position where they have no choice but to use deadly physical force, and that was the case here."
Authorities said Skinner had a previous history of suicide attempts, and was treated for depression. The night he died Skinner had made a fourth suicide attempt by hooking a hose from the tailpipe of his car into the vehicle in a closed garage. Carney noted autopsy findings that Skinner had soot on his hands when he died, probably from handling the hose. And there's more: "Dr. Sikirica found that he had suffered a stroke, a small stroke, more than three days before, but less weeks before the death."
It’s unclear if the stroke may have altered Skinner’s thoughts.
During the incident, Glenville officer Benjamin Ferretti was shot in the lower left abdomen by friendly fire. It has not been determined which officer's bullet struck Ferretti, who was treated at Albany Medical Center and released several days later.
Chief Frisoni says he has not yet spoken with the officers involved. B "Because they had to give statements to the state police as part of the investigation." Law enforcement officials now await the complete state police report, expected to take weeks to finalize.
Skinner was remembered fondly by school district officials and parents.