Grand jury finds actions of SPD officers involved in September shooting were justified

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — On Friday, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick held a press conference to deliver new information regarding the Sept. 4, 2020 shooting of Steven Smith, 33, at a Sunoco gas station on North State Street in Syracuse.

A grand jury met on Thursday, Oct. 29 and found the actions of the Syracuse Police officers involved were justified.

Once he discharged that weapon, for lack of a better phrase, all bets are off. It then becomes a live and death struggle between him and the officers.

William Fitzpatrick, Onondaga County District Attorney

Around 12:45 a.m. on Sept. 4, Syracuse Police arrived at the scene. Below is a timeline of events, according to the district attorney’s office:

Body-worn camera footage from that morning shows the gunfire exchange between Smith and Syracuse Police Sgt. Jason Wells and Officer Kenneth Sheehan. Both officers serve in the patrol division. Wells has been with the force for 11 years, Sheehan for six years.

Fitzpatrick said a total of 24 shots were fired. The first round was fired by Smith, followed by 10 rounds by Wells.

Smith then fired his weapon for the third time and Wells and Sheehan simultaneously fired 13 more times.

“In terms of the number of rounds discharged, it was sufficient to meet the force presented against them,” Fitzpatrick explained.

Smith was pronounced dead at the scene. The autopsy was conducted by the Onondaga County Medical Examiner and results confirm Smith died from multiple rounds of gunfire.

The toxicology report also showed Smith had a high level of PCP in his bloodstream.

“Mr. Smith had cannabis and frankly, an astronomical amount of PCP. The toxicologist said that it was, quote, ‘off the charts’ and the level was so high that it was beyond their scientific capability to measure the level of PCP in Mr. Smith’s system,” Fitzpatrick said.

The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau has traced Smith’s illegal weapon back to a pawn shop in Louisville, Kentucky where it was first sold. The ATF is continuing to investigate how it wound up in the hands of Smith.

There’s no indication of Mr. Smith’s motivation. You can tell from the body worn cameras, the audio that you heard, he didn’t say anything. He didn’t give any indication of why it was that he went on this rampage.

Whatever motivated Mr. Smith, he took that to his grave, but criticism directed at these officers would be grossly misplaced. They saved somebody’s life that night and sadly had to take a life to do that.

William Fitzpatrick — Onondaga County District Attorney

This has been the sixth officer-involved shooting in Onondaga county since Jan. 1, 2020.

WARNING: Body camera footage of the event was shown during the press conference and that could contain footage that some people find disturbing.

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