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April 15, 2015


Reprinted from the Times Union

Youth had hands on his head when Taser was fired

By Brendan J. Lyons Hearst-owned Times Union
Updated 8:59 pm, Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A police video released Tuesday shows an Albany County sheriff's sergeant firing a Taser at a Colonie teenager who was kneeling in front of police officers with his hands on his head at the end of a high-speed chase across two counties.

The video, taken from a dashboard camera in a police cruiser, prompted Sheriff Craig Apple to suspend Sgt. Vincent P. Igoe Jr. last month and launch an internal investigation into the sergeant's use of force. The video shows Igoe firing his Taser through the smashed back window of the vehicle as the 16-year-old suspect, Kelijah Fink, huddles in a back seat of the car and refuses to get out. The first shot missed. Igoe then quickly reloaded his Taser and fired a second time at the teenager after he emerges from the vehicle and drops to his knees.

The stun gun's second shot struck Fink, who became briefly paralyzed by the electrical shock and was quickly handcuffed.

Igoe's attorney, Stephen G. DeNigris, said he watched the video and believes his client did nothing wrong during the Aug. 16 incident.

"I thought it vindicated him," DeNigris said. "He (Fink) is 6 foot and he's 240 pounds and he just led officers on a two-county chase at speeds exceeding 100 mph. ... They wanted him on his stomach. Everybody still had their weapons out. ... I view it as de-escalating the situation very, very appropriately."

Igoe's use of force was also scrutinized four years ago when he fatally shot an undocumented Mexican immigrant while on patrol near the Albany International Airport. The immigrant was walking alone in the dark and Igoe said he opened fire as the man threw a chunk of concrete at him.

On Tuesday, DeNigris said Igoe, a 12-year veteran, had used a Taser only twice in his career before last month.

The Taser incident last month took place in Troy after Fink's vehicle was cornered by police at Sherman and Sterling avenues. Fink's vehicle struck stop signs and a residential fence during the pursuit. The video shows his vehicle pull over next to a fence and then he climbed into the back seat as police screamed at him to get out.

"It's an ongoing investigation," Apple said Tuesday. "The FBI is reviewing it."

A person briefed on a portion of the video that was not released Tuesday said it also captured footage of a Troy police officer stepping on Fink's neck after he was handcuffed. Apple declined to confirm that account and said his investigation is focused only on Igoe's actions.

DeNigris said Fink did not suffer any permanent injuries as a result of being Tasered by Igoe.

Police records indicate another deputy spotted the youth driving a vehicle without its lights on in Colonie and tried to pull over the car, but the teenager sped toward the Northway and then east on Route 7 and into Troy. Tickets issued following Fink's arrest include one charging him with driving 108 mph in a 55 mph zone.

Igoe joined the pursuit and a dispatcher cautioned the deputies not to endanger themselves or the public. The dispatchers are instructed to read the statement to officers engaged in a pursuit as part of a departmental policy. Troy police officers joined the chase in their city before Fink's vehicle slid off the roadway.

Fink was not charged by Troy police. In Colonie, he was charged with a misdemeanor count of fleeing a police officer and reckless driving, and issued numerous tickets including unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, speeding and unsafe lane change.

Fink was arraigned in Colonie Town Court and released on $2,000 bond. His case is pending.

"He didn't get on the ground," DeNigris said. "I firmly believe that that was the most reasonable way for them to resolve the situation with no harm to the police officers and no harm to the suspect."

In March 2010, Igoe's on-duty shooting of a Mexican immigrant, Marcus DeJesus Alvarez, triggered an Albany County grand jury review that found Igoe's decision to shoot DeJesus was justified. Igoe told investigators that he fired his gun after DeJesus threw a small piece of concrete at him and allegedly ignored his orders to stop moving toward the deputy in the dark.

Igoe was armed with a Glock .40-caliber handgun and shot Alvarez twice in the torso from about 15 feet away. An autopsy indicated Alvarez was intoxicated when he was shot. • 518-454-5547 • @blyonswriter