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District Attorney Hoovler Announces Final Findings in
City of Port Jervis Police-Involved Shooting Investigation
Orange County Grand Jury Clears Police Officers Who Fatally Shot
Man That Tried to Stab Them with a Knife
Independent Investigation by District Attorney’s Office Concludes That
Police Were Legally Justified in Using Deadly Physical Force
Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced that on December 2, 2020, an Orange County grand jury declined to file charges against two City of Port Jervis police officers who shot a man on March 19, 2020, at 67 Railroad Avenue, in the City of Port Jervis. An investigation determined that the man, who was suffering from mental health issues, charged at the police officers with a knife, in an apparent attempt to have the police officers kill him. The man was subsequently shot and died. The grand jury’s finding, known as a “No True Bill,” ended the grand jury’s investigation, and ensured that no state criminal charges would be brought against the police officers who shot the man.
Independently of the grand jury’s investigation, the Orange County District Attorney's Office, aided by the New York State Police, investigated the incident. District Attorney David M. Hoovler, Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Borek, Chief Trial Assistant District Attorney Jason Rosenwasser and District Attorney Office Criminal Investigators responded to the City of Port Jervis on the night of the incident, along with the New York State Police. Under a pending Governor’s Executive Order, incidents where police shoot “unarmed” civilians must be investigated by the New York State Attorney General’s Office. After consultation with the Attorney General’s Office, however, it was determined that the investigation would most appropriately be handled by the District Attorney’s Office, because the deceased appeared to have menaced the officer with a foot-long knife.
Although proceedings before grand juries are secret as a matter of law, the findings of the District Attorney’s Office, made from evidence uncovered outside of the grand jury proceeding, can be made public. The District Attorney’s investigation revealed:
2. Within approximately five minutes multiple patrol cars from the City of Port Jervis Police Department arrived at 67 Railroad Avenue, a two-family house with a porch. A total of four uniformed police officers and one detective arrived at the house.
3. Upon arrival at the scene, police officers were met by Beverly Parker, who had made the call for police assistance. Ms. Parker directed their attention to the area of the living room, just inside the front door of the unit of the left side of the house, where she said her son was sitting with a knife.
4. When the police officers looked inside the house, they saw Charles Parker Jr., sitting on a couch holding a large kitchen knife pressed against his neck and heard Charles Parker Jr. say, “Either you’re going to do it or I will.” When police officers commanded him to put the knife down, Charles Parker, Jr. stated, “The only way you’re going to help me is if you draw your gun and shoot me.” As police continued to talk to him, Charles Parker, Jr. also stated, “You’re going to have to draw your gun,” and “I am going to make you shoot me. I am going to make you do it. Either you do it or I will.” During the entire encounter, police officers never entered the house.
5. Charles Parker Jr. went further in the house, and for a brief time was out of the line of sight of the police officers. Charles Parker, Jr. then went to the threshold of the doorway of the house, where the police officers were, holding the knife above his head with the knife pointed at the officers. The police officers gave Charles Parker, Jr. repeated commands to drop the knife, which was overheard by a civilian witness who had been passing by.
6. The civilian passerby told investigators that he heard police officers initially tell Charles Parker, Jr., “Charles put the knife down, we can do this civilly,” and then heard officers shouting in a more panicked tone, “Put the knife down. Drop the knife.”
7. Charles Parker, Jr. did not comply with the direction to put the knife down, and instead lunged toward the officers with the knife raised. The closest police officers were Police Officer Jesse Clune and Police Officer Andrew Haniuk, who were approximately two to four feet away from Mr. Parker. Three other police officers were in the immediate vicinity.
8. When Mr. Parker lunged toward them with the knife, Police Officer Clune fired three shots from his pistol at Mr. Parker, and Police Officer Haniuk fired one shot at Mr. Parker. Another police officer discharged a taser at Mr. Parker.
9. The taser, which fires two prongs with electrical wires attached to them is designed to administer an electrical shock. However, for this to happen both prongs must be touching the person. In this instance only one of the prongs struck Mr. Parker.
10. Mr. Parker was struck with four bullets and collapsed to the ground landing within one foot of Police Office Clune and Police Officer Haniuk.
11. A police officer kicked the knife, which was over one-foot long and had an eight inch blade, away from Charles Parker Jr.’s hand, and police officers immediately rendered first-aid and CPR to Parker, who was subsequently transported by ambulance to Bon Secours Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
12. An autopsy performed on Parker concluded that he suffered four penetrating gunshot wounds. It was determined that three of the bullets entered Mr. Parker’s torso from the direction of front to back. A fourth gunshot wound to Mr. Parker’s left arm entered from the left-side of his arm, which would have been in front of him if he held his left arm across his body as he lunged at police officers with the knife raised in his right hand.
13. A toxicology report revealed that Mr. Parker had a blood alcohol content of .205 and had ingested two anti-depressant medications. (In New York State it is crime to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.)
14. DNA swabs of the knife handle matched the DNA profile of Charles Parker, Jr. The probability of selecting an unrelated individual with a profile matching the DNA profile on the knife is less than 1 in 320 billion.
15. Two days before the incident, Charles Parker, Jr. sent an electronic message to a family member in which he said, “I love you, forgive everything I done,” that he loved his family and that he would see them in heaven.
After reviewing all the attendant facts and circumstances involving the police shooting, including interviews of civilian witnesses and police officers, and a review of the available evidence, it is the conclusion of the District Attorney's Office that the police officers’ actions in this case were justified under the New York State Penal Law.
District Attorney Hoovler thanked the City of Port Jervis Police Department and the New York State Police for their assistance and cooperation in this investigation.
The District Attorney’s office is aware that some of this information being made public will no doubt be disturbing for Mr. Parker’s family and loved-ones, but its release is the only way that the community can have absolute confidence in the integrity and transparency of this investigation and in the inescapable conclusion that these police officers legally acted in self-defense.
“Although it is clear that these officers were legally justified in using deadly physical force to avoid being attacked with a knife, it is always a tragedy when police officers cause the death of someone they were trying to aid, and never more so than when the deceased was suffering from mental illness and associated issues,” said District Attorney Hoovler. “Incidents like this are deeply troubling to law enforcement agencies, municipalities, mental health providers and the entire community. I believe all should be committed to develop best practices to limit the loss of life during mental health emergencies. This Spring, the District Attorney’s Office will sponsor “de-escalation” training for police officers. Attempts at de-escalation have no legal bearing on New York State’s law as it pertains to police officers’ lawful use of deadly physical force. However, there is still a moral imperative that police and municipalities adopt policies, procedures and skills to better handle these unfortunate situations. We are sponsoring this training in the same spirit that we sponsored our recent “implicit bias” police training. The community and police officers all benefit when police officers receive more than the minimally required training. This enhanced training will enable them to even better serve their communities.”
The investigation was handled by Chief Trial Assistant District Attorney Jason Rosenwasser.