RPD Chief: Man shot, killed by police ‘brandished’ a handgun during traffic stop

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester police shot and killed a man during a traffic stop early Friday morning on the city’s west side after responding to reports of shots fired nearby, and now the New York State Attorney General’s office is investigating the incident.

Quick facts:

  • Male in his 20s shot, killed by Rochester police early Friday morning after “brandishing” a handgun during traffic stop. Police say the man was of White/Hispanic race.
  • Vehicle was stopped by police due to reports of shots fired nearby on Lyell Avenue
  • Two officers on administrative leave
  • At least nine shots were fired
  • Attorney general’s office investigating, body camera footage will be released

Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said the attorney general’s office granted her permission to share some preliminary details with the public during a Friday afternoon press conference.

“We’re going to do the best we can to investigate this, to work with the AG’s office, and to make sure we get the public what information we can and be as transparent as we can,” Herriott Sullivan said. “That’s what we have been doing and we’ll continue to do that.”

The police chief said officers responded to Lyell Avenue around 4:21 a.m. for a ShotSpotter activation — a gunshot detections system. Police say cameras caught a vehicle leaving the scene on Lyell Avenue and was later seen on Glasser Street, where officers attempted a traffic stop.

Herriott-Sullivan said during the stop, a man in the car was seen “brandishing” a handgun.

She said two Rochester police officers were involved in firing their weapon, and at least nine shots were fired.

The victim, only identified as a man in his 20s at this time, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Another male in the vehicle was not struck. The officers involved were not injured.

Herriott-Sullivan said the two officers who fired their weapons are on administrative leave until the internal investigation is concluded.

The police chief clarified that brandishing meant the man was in possession of a firearm, but she said she couldn’t share more specifics as far — as if it was aimed at the officers or fired — in this preliminary stage of the investigation.

Herriott-Sullivan said the department was reviewing the body warn camera footage, which police say will be redacted and released to the public, potentially later Friday.

“As you know, when you have different officers involved, different cameras, different angles; it takes us awhile to get through all the information,” she said.

The police chief said it was unclear to her, as of Friday’s 4:30 p.m. press conference, if the victim fired a weapon.

“I can tell you shots were fired,” Herriott-Sullivan said. “As far as details on that: Who fired, when — we’re literally in the middle of that and we want to make sure we give you as much correct information as possible.”

The police chief said she had seen some of the body camera footage, but not all of it.

“We’ve got to examine the scene, examine the vehicle, examine the weapons that are involved, and we just aren’t there yet,” Herriott-Sullivan said. “I can’t tell you what I don’t know yet.”

Due to New York State Executive Law Section 70-b, any civilian death involved with a police officer — whether they are armed or unarmed — goes under the jurisdiction of the attorney general’s office. That rule went into effect April 1, 2021.

“They [attorney general’s office] understands the public needs to know a certain bit of information and we’ll share as much as we can,” Herriott-Sullivan said.

A press release from the attorney general’s office Friday said in part:

“The New York Attorney General’s Office of Special Investigations has opened an investigation into the death of a civilian who died this morning, May 14, 2021, following an encounter with law enforcement in Rochester. New York State Executive Law Section 70-b mandated the establishment of an Office of Special Investigation (OSI) within the Office of the New York State Attorney General, effective April 1, 2021.”

“We will comply fully with the Attorney General’s investigation. RPD and the AG’s office are working diligently to give the community the information that they are seeking and I assure you that we will continue to demand the answers that we all deserve,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said during a presentation of her budget proposal Friday morning.

In March, Rochester police shot and killed a man outside the Open Door Mission who was armed with a knife. The body camera footage of that incident was released later that day, and ultimately it was decided that the Monroe County District Attorney’s office would hold jurisdiction over that case.

Warren said Friday morning that RPD is in the process of redacting body worn camera footage from Friday’s incident to release to the public.

“I also know that all of us are tired and weary from the tragedies we have had to endure,” Mayor Warren said. “But I ask that we all continue to act with dignity and together we will persevere and create the change we all desire.”

The Rochester Police Locust Club is the union representing Rochester police officers. It released a statement Friday evening, saying:

The incident last night on Glasser Street is a dire example of the dangers that the community and our members face every night with the levels of violence and the criminal use of firearms that plague our streets.

It is always easy for some to criticize the actions that a police officer may take in a deadly situation, while they sit safely within their home. Our members were responding to a reported shooting, a very common occurrence that has taken more lives in the past months than anyone should find acceptable.

It is concerning that when so many lives have been taken by violent acts in this city, when an incident involves a police officer, all the focus and dialogue from Mayor Warren is assuring the public that immediately all evidence in the incident will be released and a complete investigation will be guaranteed.

Glaringly there is no mention or concern for the welfare of our members, who easily could have been seriously injured or killed. No loss of life is good. We are thankful that our members avoided injury to themselves and others when confronted with a deadly situation.

Team coverage

RPD Friday evening update

RPD Friday morning update

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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