Police release recording of deadly Schenectady standoff

Friday, August 23, 2013
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A Schenectady patrol car sits in front of 3290 Balltown Road after a police officer-involved shooting May 2.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
A Schenectady patrol car sits in front of 3290 Balltown Road after a police officer-involved shooting May 2.

— Police shot Julio Colon after a long standoff in which they tried to get him talking, but he told them to kill him, an audio recording of the incident shows.

The Schenectady Police Department released the police microphone audio of the entire May 3 encounter in response to a Freedom of Information Law request. Earlier this month, a grand jury cleared the officers involved in the incident of any wrongdoing.

Initial reports from the police were that Sgt. Darryl Mallard had to react immediately when he saw Julio Colon holding his boyfriend at knifepoint. But the audio shows Mallard and Officer Joseph Zelezniak spent 21⁄2 minutes trying to talk Colon into putting down his knife.

They also spent almost eight minutes getting into the apartment while the hostage called out to them, begging for help. Colon had barricaded the apartment door with a couch, and officers tried to kick down the door and break in through a window before finally getting the door’s hinges off.

They even asked the Fire Department to bring a battering ram, but they got in before firefighters arrived.

Police have not released the identity of the victim. He is identified on the audiotape only as David.

Police initially were told that the two occupants’ names were Joel and David.

“Joel or David, open the door!” one officer shouted.

David called back, but his voice could barely be heard on the recording.

“Help me!” he said.

Police yelled, “Is there anyone in there with you?”

By that time, they had been beating down the door for seven minutes without any response from an assailant. The only thing they had heard was David’s repeated calls for help, and they had no idea Colon was holding a knife to his throat.

Their first clue was David saying, “I can’t get there. He won’t let me up!”

An officer immediately commanded, “Joel, let him up!”

There was no response.

Police then began to fight harder to get inside. It took them three more minutes to get the hinges off.

When they finally got inside, they could not immediately see the men. So an officer shouted, “Police Department! Let’s see your hands! Come out!”

All they heard was disjointed singing from the kitchen. Toxicology reports later found Colon had taken a large amount of methamphetamine.

As the officers walked toward the kitchen, an officer radioed to dispatchers that they could see one man holding a knife to another man’s throat. They tried to talk to Colon, but he was incoherent at first.

“What he did! You know what’s going on!” he slurred.

An officer responded, “Come on, man, put the knife down. We can talk about this.”

Colon’s response was, “You know what’s going on! You know what you did!”

But after some prompting, he began to speak, possibly to David. “Tell me why! Tell me why!” he said. “You know I want you. That’s the whole idea.”

He went on to say that he was a “joke” and had lost everything because of David.

He had spent 20 days in jail in March after police broke up a fight between the two men at the Days Inn. Police found a bag of methamphetamine on Colon and determined he had attacked David to force him to stay in the hotel room. Colon pleaded guilty to drug possession, and David asked for an order of protection.

But after Colon got out of jail, he and David began living together at David’s Balltown Road apartment. Six weeks later, on May 3, a maintenance worker overheard David telling Colon to leave the apartment.

Police did not know that history when they tried to calm Colon.

“All I ask is why? Why?” Colon demanded.

The officer asked, “Tell you why what?”

“Everything!” Colon burst out, saying that everyone laughed at him and he’d lost everything.

“My life, my belongings, my family, my friends. Everything. And it’s OK, this is a big joke to everybody. I ask him — you took everything. Leave me alone, that’s all I ask. But I have to know — why?”

As he spoke, he became more and more irate, and the officer repeatedly insisted he put down his knife.

After six repetitions, Colon began to mutter, “Kill me.”

“Put the knife down.”

“Kill me.”

“Put the knife down.”

“Kill me! Because I’m not coming with you!”

After seven more commands to put down the knife, David screamed and Mallard shot while an officer yelled, “Put the knife down!”

Then an officer calmly said into the radio, “Shots fired. Suspect is down. Send paramedics.”

Police said later that Colon tried to stab David in the chest, and was stopped by Mallard’s shots.

But for the officers in the room, the drama wasn’t over yet. Colon still had the knife.

“Drop it now!” one of the officers shouted.

“I can’t move,” Colon moaned.

Finally Colon stopped speaking and an officer was able to snatch the knife away.

Medics rushed in and tried to save Colon’s life, but he was bleeding hard from a gunshot wound in his left lung. He died later that day. David needed stitches but was otherwise fine.

While medics tried to save Colon, Mallard retreated to another room, where an officer tried to reassure him.

“I know, brother, we did everything we could, until he put the knife in,” the officer said.

After Colon was wheeled into an ambulance, the two officers tried to understand Colon’s motive.

“What was that? I couldn’t figure that out,” one officer said.

The other officer said he thought Colon wanted to die.

“He planned this,” he said. “He wanted us to come in. He was saying ‘Kill me.’ It sounded like suicide by cop.”

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August 24, 2013
7:17 a.m.
muggy says...

It occurs to me, each time I see one of these videos, police do their best in dangerous situations, to "serve and protect." The Schenectady Police Dept has had a black eye for years, oftentimes self-inflicted. But every time I see one of these videos, I am reminded that they have to deal with the city's worst elements on a daily basis. IMHO, job well done.

August 24, 2013
7:52 a.m.
wmarincic says...

I know both of these officers and have known Joe Zelezniak for about 10 years. Both are great cops doing a tough job. If these guys had to shoot, then they had absolutely no other choice but to do so.

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