Syracuse Police officers talk together for the first time since New Year’s Eve officer-involved shooting

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — For the first time since the night they shot a 22-year-old man, Syracuse Police Officers Joseph LeBlanc and Brandon Hanks spoke with NewsChannel 9 for the first time together.

It was New Year’s Eve when Syracuse Police say Michael Viola of Syracuse was armed with a hatchet and charged at them. Both officers fired their weapons and at least one of those shots, hit Viola.

Officers Hanks and LeBlanc have since returned to duty after being on administrative leave for a month. An Onondaga County grand jury cleared them of any wrongdoing and for that, they say they’re grateful to return to duty.

“Unfortunately, these tough decisions happen. It’s a tragic incident. It happens one percent or less,” Officer LeBlanc said. “It’s important for us to do our jobs and take it in as tough decisions.”

Officer Hanks explained, “It’s too quick of a time frame to sit there and think ‘should I do this or should I do that,’ so we just always tap in on our training, and hopefully that’ll carry us out the way.”

A month before all of this, Officer Hanks became a dad.

“Especially after the incident, I wanted to see my son and hold my son as tight as I could cause like I said, at the simple, at an incident, I could have been taken away from him,” said Officer Hanks.

It’s not unexpected that being back on the job feels a little different for Officers Hanks and LeBlanc.

“It’s important in those kind of tough times. I mean, our family, our friends, are our rock. They’re the reason we’re able to go out there and change the world. We want to change the community one call at a time,” said Officer LeBlanc.

“It definitely humbled me a little bit and made me more appreciative of some of the work that I’ve been doing,” explained Officer Hanks.

Officer Hanks grabbed local and national headlines by challenging kids to beat him at a game of one-on-one basketball. If he wins, they do push-ups. If the kids win, Hanks buys them sneakers.

“Being back to work means that I’m back playing with the kids,” said Officer Hanks.

He’s ready to pick up that challenge again, and kids are already lining up to play him.

Both officers, wanting to continue the good work and hoping to bridge the gap between the community and all police officers.

“I signed up for this for a reason and these incidents do a occur and I want to be able to serve the community, protect everyone that I’m supposed to protect,”

The community and fellow officer support is giving them the motivation to keep protecting and serving.

Viola was injured in the shooting and has since pleaded not guilty to charges of menacing a police officer and criminal possession of a weapon. He’s being held at the Onondaga County Justice Center awaiting trial. 

For more information on Officer Hanks and LeBlanc getting back to work, watch below:

For more local news, follow Adrienne Smith on Twitter @AdrienneSmithTV

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