Schenectady police officer cleared in man’s death
SCHENECTADY Julio Colon told police they’d need to kill him before he’d drop the military-style knife he held to the throat of his 23-year-old roommate.
Schenectady police responding to reports of a domestic altercation at the first-floor apartment off of Dewitt Avenue on May 3 found the 40-year-old man sitting wedged on the floor between a wall and a bed, shielding himself with his hostage. Officers commanded Colon to drop the knife a total of 29 times, but he instead began pushing the tip of his weapon into the bare and bloodied chest of his hostage.
With guns drawn, Sgt. Darryl Mallard and Officer Joseph Zelezniak tried to grab Colon’s arm, but to no avail. Officer Michael Crounse pointed his Taser at the man, but the hostage blocked any chance of a clear shot.
That’s when Mallard made the decision to fire two shots into the right side of Colon, according to an account provided by Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney. The non-lethal shots stunned Colon enough for him to release his headlock on his hostage, but not enough for him to drop his knife.
Instead, the man stood up and began closing the short distance between himself and the officers. Mallard then fired a final shot, fatally striking Colon in the chest and sending him crumpling to the ground.
“Even then, [Colon] continued to hold onto the knife,” Carney said. “He wouldn’t drop the knife for another two or three minutes.”
A grand jury has cleared Mallard, a decorated veteran of more than 10 years on the force, of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of Colon. Carney said his office came to the same conclusion after a review of the case, including interviews with witnesses and an audio recording captured by a microphone on one of the three responding officers.
“It is regrettable that Mr. Colon lost his life, but worse outcomes were possible here involving death or serious injury to the roommate or the police,” Carney said. “Whether because of drug-induced paranoia, a wish to die at the hands of police or some other reason, Mr. Colon bears the ultimate responsibility for his own death.”
The probe into Colon’s death affirmed the initial findings of an internal investigation conducted by the Schenectady police.
Chief Brian Kilcullen credited the grand jury and Carney’s office for taking an objective look at the moments leading up to Colon’s death.
“It’s unfortunate that Sgt. Mallard was put in a position to use deadly physical force, but it was certainly lawful and justified,” he said. “His actions that day were consistent with applicable laws and policy governing deadly force.”
Mallard was placed on administrative leave for several days following the shooting. He has since returned to active duty.
Colon, who had significant quantities of methamphetamine in his body, died from bleeding resulting from a gunshot wound through his left lung. The roommate — who was not named by Carney or police — was treated for bruises and knife wounds, including some that required stitches to close.
Carney said investigators recovered a needle from the apartment that Colon had apparently been using to inject the methamphetamine earlier in the morning. He said the roommate indicated that Colon had become agitated and paranoid after taking the drugs, but he was initially able to calm him.
A pattern of violence apparently already existed between Colon and his victim, who was his domestic partner. Schenectady police broke up a violent fight between the two men at the Days Inn during the early morning hours of March 3, about two months before the hostage situation.
In that incident, responding officers found the unidentified victim with swelling around his face and a cut above his eye — injuries sustained during a domestic dispute. Investigators later determined that Colon, who was found to have a small bag of methamphetamine, refused to let his partner leave a room at the hotel by repeatedly shoving him back from the door. He also struck and bit the man during the fracas, according to court documents.
Colon was taken into custody and his victim requested an order of protection. Colon ultimately pleaded guilty to drug possession, was handed a 30-day sentence and was released from the Schenectady County Jail on March 22, after being given 10 days off of his sentence for good behavior.
But the stint in jail apparently had little impact on Colon, a Long Island native on disability who had only lived in the area for about six months. Less than six weeks after his release, maintenance workers at the complex near the Balltown Road intersection with Dewitt Avenue heard the sound of a physical struggle and shouts for help coming from inside apartment 1A.
Police arrived to find the door barricaded from inside by a couch. After they removed the door from its hinges and approached Colon, Carney said, the situation evolved quickly.
“There were about three seconds from the first to last shot,” he said.