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Orange County Grand Jury Clears Police Officer Who Fatally Shot
Man That Menaced Him with a Knife
Independent Investigation by District Attorney’s Office Concludes That
Police Were Justified in Using Deadly Physical Force
Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced that on December 13, 2018, an Orange County grand jury declined to file charges against a Town of Warwick police officer who shot a man on June 16, 2018, at 24 Wheeler Avenue, in Warwick. An investigation determined that the man menaced and charged at a police officer after the officer responded to a domestic disturbance. The man was subsequently shot and died. The grand jury’s finding, known as a “No Bill,” ended the grand jury’s investigation, and ensured that no state criminal charges would be brought against the police officer 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. 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 an eight-inch steak-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:
On June 16, 2018, at approximately 2:58 p.m., Town of Warwick police officers responded to 24 Wheeler Avenue, for a report of a domestic dispute.
2. About ten minutes later two Town of Warwick police officers arrived at 24 Wheeler Avenue.
3. Upon arrival at the scene, police officers heard yelling inside the house. One officer responded to the front door facing Wheeler Avenue.
4. The front door was opened from the inside, and police encountered Dwayne Clyburn in the foyer area of the front entrance of the residence.
5. Clyburn produced an eight-inch steak-knife and confronted the police officer at the door. The police officer repeatedly demanded that Clyburn drop the knife. Clyburn refused, and charged at the police officer from a distance of less than fifteen feet. The Town of Warwick police officer fired three rounds from his issued service weapon striking Clyburn.
6. Police officers immediately rendered first-aid and CPR to Clyburn, who subsequently died as a result of the gunshot wounds.
7. An autopsy performed on Clyburn concluded that he suffered three gunshot wounds, to his right forearm and chest. The autopsy further concluded that all the gunshot wounds entered his body while he was facing the firing police officer. All the gunshot wounds were determined to have travelled from front to back. These findings show that Clyburn was facing the firing police officer at the time of the shooting.
8. The New York State Police recovered numerous pieces of evidence, including three expended shell casings, and two knives.
9. One knife, an eight-inch steak-knife was removed from Clyburn’s hand moments after the shooting.
10. A toxicology report indicated Clyburn had metabolites of marijuana in his system and was legally intoxicated at the time of his death.
11. After the shooting, a resident of 24 Wheeler was found to have slash wounds to her hands caused by Clyburn. Had he survived, Clyburn could have faced numerous felony and misdemeanor charges for his actions regarding this resident.
12. An independent witness, a non-shooting police officer, as well as a resident of 24 Wheeler Avenue, all observed various portions of the incident. All clearly heard the shooting police officer issue repeated warnings to Clyburn before seeing and hearing shots fired.
After reviewing all the attendant facts and circumstances involving the police shooting, including interviews of witnesses and police officers, and a review of the available evidence, it is the conclusion of the District Attorney's Office that the police officer’s actions in this case were justified under the New York State Penal Law.
“It is always a tragedy when a police officer must use deadly physical force,” said District Attorney Hoovler. “This incident, like many police-involved shootings, could have been resolved with no loss of life, if Mr. Clyburn had simply complied with the lawful commands of the police officers. I thank the Town of Warwick Police Department and the New York State Police for their assistance and cooperation in this investigation.”
The investigation was personally handled by District Attorney Hoovler.