Press-Republican

January 1, 2013

Altona man shot and killed by deputy

Serving warrant when, Sheriff David Favro says, man drew knife

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — ALTONA — A Clinton County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed an Altona man who was attacking him with a knife, authorities say.

At about 4:20 p.m. Sunday, Dusty Clark, 28, of 9 Bloomer St. opened the kitchen door of his residence to Deputies Jason R. Winters and Andrew J. Bertrand, there to serve him with an arrest warrant, Clinton County Sheriff David Favro said.

“The deputies informed him they had a warrant for his arrest and he was going to have to go with them,” he said. “He indicated he was not going, turned away from them and secured a knife.”

Favro said Clark moved toward Winters in an aggressive way.

“The deputy drew his taser and warned the subject approximately four times to put the knife down,” the sheriff said.

He fired the taser, he said. 

“(But) it did not have the desired impact to slow or stop the individual.”

Clark, he said, didn’t back down — instead, he cornered Winters, who drew his service revolver.

RECORDED ON VIDEO

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Favro noted that Clark also threatened the officer verbally during the altercation, but the sheriff was not certain of Clark’s exact words. 

The sheriff said Winters warned Clark one last time.

“The individual did not yield (to) that warning and continued to come close to the deputy in a threatening fashion, and the deputy discharged his firearm, striking the individual, ultimately causing his death,” Favro said. 

Clinton County Coroner David Donah declared Clark dead at the home at 5:25 p.m. An autopsy was to be conducted Monday morning at CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh.

A camera attached to the taser that was used on Clark recorded audio and video of the incident, which authorities have viewed, according to Favro. 

Preliminary investigation has revealed that Winters fired two or three rounds, which struck Clark in the center chest area. However, the sheriff said, autopsy

results were still pending to determine exactly where and how many times the man was shot.

Favro said deputies are trained to fire off several rounds into the center mass of the target in situations such as this.

“At this point in time, I have no reason to believe whatsoever that the officers acted out of character,” he said. “They did exactly what they needed to do and what should have been done in this given circumstance, following all of the proper guidelines.”

TASER INEFFECTUAL

The sheriff said he did not know the exact dimensions of the knife Clark wielded during the altercation, but the video footage from the taser camera revealed that it, “without a doubt, was clearly capable of causing death.”

Clark’s kitchen, Favro estimated, was approximately 10 feet by 12 feet in size with a table and counter space. 

“The officer was actually backed up to a countertop when this had occurred,” he said. 

Immediately following the shooting, Favro said, the deputies cleared the house and checked to see if first aid could be administered to Clark.

“It did not appear that that was going to be in any way fruitful,” he said. “They contacted the EMTs from Altona, who did respond, and ultimately needed to contact the coroner.”

It has not yet been determined why the taser used on Clark did not have the desired effect, according to Favro, but there was no reason to believe the instrument was defective.

The department, he added, will be sending its tasers away to be tested.

In order for a taser to work properly, he explained, both of the instrument’s two probes must be in contact with the body of an individual and penetrate into the skin.

“We can clearly establish that one of them did, and the other one we believe did not, and that’s what we’re looking into right now to find out what it could have hit — a button on a shirt or a pin or a belt,” Favro said. 

NOT FELONIES

Another person was in the basement of the home at the time the incident took place, the sheriff said, but was not in the immediate area.

“That individual was cleared from the home and removed from the home,” he said. 

Authorities would also look to the autopsy to determine whether Clark was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident.

The warrant from Altona Town Court was for failure to appear on charges of unlicensed operation and unsafe passing.

“He was not facing any felony charges at that time, and I don’t think the charges (were) the primary reason as to why he took the aggressive approach that he did,” Favro said.

Still, he wished not to speculate on why Clark was unwilling to answer the charges against him.

“You can’t get inside somebody’s mind to actually assess what they were thinking and why they do things,” he said. 

The State Police Troop B Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Forensic Investigation Unit processed evidence at the home at Favro’s request.

“We will continue to investigate and evaluate everything that took place,” the sheriff said. 

‘UNIMAGINABLE TO MOST’

Winters is a 12-year veteran, and both he and Bertrand are deeply grieved over the necessity of using lethal force, Favro said in a separate interview.

He added at the press conference that the two officers were currently on their regularly scheduled days off, and the department would work with them and other agencies to establish what course of action would be in the best interest of the officers, as well as the department as a whole.

“An event like this is unimaginable in most people’s minds, and a typical individual could not even comprehend what it’s like to have someone come after you with a deadly weapon that wants to take your life, when your job is out there to try and protect others and keep the peace in the public,” Favro said.

“It’s an unfortunate incident, but I am pleased at least to be able to announce that the officers did deploy their training, which is a very difficult thing to do in a critical time like this and that the outcome, as unfortunate as it is, could have been much much worse.”

— News Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.