Video released of Rochester officer shooting man outside Open Door Mission 

click to enlarge An officer with the Rochester Police Department shot a man five times as he approached him with a knife early Wednesday morning.

An officer with the Rochester Police Department shot a man five times as he approached him with a knife early Wednesday morning.

The city of Rochester has released the body-worn camera footage of the police shooting outside of the Open Door Mission on West Main Street, which left one man dead early Wednesday morning.

Around 3 a.m. Wednesday, police responded to the Open Door Mission, a homeless shelter, due to a 911 call reporting that a man took knives from the mission’s kitchen and left. After a stand-off with police that unfolded over a few minutes, one officer fired five shots at the man, all of them striking his torso..

The video of the incident was originally withheld from the public at the request of District Attorney Sandra Doorley, pending the decision of whether she, or Attorney General Letitia James, had jurisdiction over the matter. Released to the public late-Wednesday evening, the video gives a clearer picture of what happened that morning.

"While RPD is still working to identify the deceased, the City believes that it is important for the community to have access to the video," city Communications Director Justin Roj said.

WARNING: The following Rochester Police Department body-worm camera footage contains graphic images that may be disturbing to some viewers.

Open Door Mission had described the man as a "guest," implying he's homeless. The Rochester Police Department has yet to identify him.

The nearly 40 minute video begins from the perspective of the officer who shot the man driving up to the scene in his patrol car. The officer arrives at the mission, and as he emerges from the car a Black man in white pants and black jacket can be seen on the sidewalk, a small kitchen knife in his right hand.

"Boss, I'm going to need you to drop the knife," the officer yells at the man.

The man begins walking slowly at the officer. The man can be heard saying things including "shoot me," "I'm dangerous," and "I'm going to kill you for Jesus."

"Okay, I need you to not kill me for Jesus, and I need you to drop the knife," the officer responds. At this point the officer has his handgun drawn and is backing away from the man.

For several minutes, the man follows the officer, who continues backing up and asking the man to drop the knife. Another officer can be heard asking the man his name.

"We ain't gotta go down this road," the officer says, as the man continues walking silently towards him.

At less than 4 minutes into the video, the officer gives one final order to back up, before firing five shots in quick succession into the man's upper body.

"God damn it," he says, immediately calling in medical aid. He walks up and kicks the knife away from the man while shouting "stop" before attempting to give medical attention. The video continues for several minutes as the officers attempt to save the man.

In other officers' body-worn camera footage, a request for a taser operator can be heard being called, indicating no one at the scene was cleared to carry or use a taser. Another officer refers to his bean bag gun, which was not used during the incident.
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
  • 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.

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."

Earlier Wednesday, 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.

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 unarmed 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 had 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. Wednesday 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.”

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or [email protected].
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