Apr. 7—An Oneonta man was fatally shot during a confrontation with Oneonta police in front of his River Street home Tuesday afternoon, April 6.
The victim, identified by police only as a 23-year-old white male, was wielding a knife at the time of the incident, according to New York State Police, who took over the investigation from Oneonta police within an hour of the shooting.
The Office of the New York State Attorney General is investigating the man's death in accordance with state law, which requires all police-involved deaths to be reviewed by the attorney general.
Oneonta police responded to a domestic dispute at a residence at the corner of West Ann Street in the Sixth Ward shortly before 1 p.m., according to troopers. The unnamed male subject was allegedly wielding a knife and attacked an unidentified woman, who was with her approximately 2-year-old child. The mother suffered a knife wound to the leg and has been treated, according to troopers. The condition of the child was not reported.
Kevin Marcewicz, a neighbor of the victim, identified the man as Tyler Johnsson, the woman as his fiancee and the child as the couple's son.
He was later identified as Tyler Green by a person close to the family.
Marcewicz said he was in his dining room when he saw an Oneonta police SUV pull up onto the side street adjacent to the home and park behind the residence. He said he remembered looking at his phone and noting the time as exactly 1:10 p.m.
"They went to the backyard first because they were just kind of standing there holding the baby, so I think there was some confusion and when they realized that it was Tyler who was actually the threat, they came around the side," Marcewicz said.
Marcewicz said his wife, Jessica, was arranging a yard sale in front of their home with their 4-year-old daughter when the shots rang out, which he clocked at 1:14 p.m.
"When they had their guns pulled on him, I thought they were tasers," Marcewicz said. "There's a baby right there, I didn't think it was going to be real guns, and then I heard the 'pop-pop' and I said, 'You've gotta be ... kidding me.' My wife runs inside, I run outside."
A scuffle broke out in the moments before police fired on his neighbor, Marcewicz said. The man had been holding his son when police realized he had a knife in the other hand. The child's mother and police were both attempting to take him from the man when the boy "hit the ground."
"They dropped the baby," Marcewicz said. "The officer pointed the gun right at him and didn't even give him a chance — boom, boom — double-tap right to the chest. Point blank."
"I don't even think he realized he had gotten shot at first," Marcewicz continued. "He was still talking — adrenaline, you know? He's laying on the ground, the female officer kicks the knife away and then they stood over him with their guns still drawn on him."
Marcewicz said he started recording the scene on his cellphone "seconds after" shots were fired. New York State Police later took possession of the phone as evidence.
In the video, the man is seen lying facedown on his front lawn, handcuffed, as one of the two officers continues to point her gun at him.
"I need help," he moans, audible from 20 feet away.
"That was a real gun?" Marcewicz asks.
"Are you serious?" says another off-camera bystander.
"You shot him because he had a (expletive) knife?" Marcewicz asks the officers. "You have tasers, bro, there's a little kid there."
The victim's moans escalate into howls.
"They shot me in the spine!" he can be heard saying, again calling out for help. "They shot me in the (expletive) spine!"
A second off-camera bystander tells police to roll the man over as he seemingly begins to choke, blood becoming visible on his chest and lower back.
An officer is seen kneeling over the man over, leaning on his forearms against the man's side. About five minutes into the recording, officers roll him onto his side and remove the handcuffs.
"You guys need to get an ambulance here," Marcewicz can be heard saying off-screen, joining the chorus of other onlookers warning that the man is going to bleed out and die.
An Oneonta ambulance arrives on scene and paramedics appear to evaluate the man who was shot, touching him very little.
Several minutes later, his shirt is removed as he is loaded onto a stretcher.
The bloody shirt and a tipped-over teddy bear remained on the ground with evidence tags as dozens more troopers swarmed the scene and cordoned off the front yard.
"I am OPD's friend. You know that," Marcewicz tells acting Oneonta Police Chief Christopher Witzenburg when he arrives on scene. "But that was the most (expletive) thing I've ever seen."
About two hours after the shooting, a woman whom Marcewicz identified as the man's mother confronts the officers standing in front of the home she shared with her son.
"My son is dying!" she screamed at a stone-faced trooper. "Does anybody understand that my son is going over to Albany and he's dying? Because of what happened here today!"
She pleaded with police to let her into her home to retrieve her medication, asking them to retrieve it for her when they refused.
While he was giving an interview in a police cruiser, Marcewicz said, he overheard from a conversation over the scanner that medical personnel were having difficulty stabilizing the victim and weren't optimistic about his prognosis.
Shortly after 7 p.m., New York State Police confirmed that the victim was pronounced dead at Albany Medical Center. He had been airlifted from A.O. Fox Hospital.
In a Tuesday evening address to the Oneonta Common Council, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig said that officers "acted to save the life of the child by firing two shots."
The incident was recorded by an operational body camera, according to Herzig, and remains an "open and ongoing investigation," according to Witzenburg.
"I know this has been a difficult day for Oneonta and a very difficult day for all members of the Oneonta Police Department," Herzig said.
Any further updates in the investigation will come from the state Attorney General's Office.
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.
*Story changed at 7:2 a.m. April 7 to correct the gender of the child.
Story changed at 2:59 p.m. April 7 throughout to change references to last name of the man who was fatally shot.