ELIZABETHTOWN – The case of a white Cohoes police officer who reported exchanging shots with Black youths at Lincoln Pond has been reopened by State Police.
An investigation had showed that Sean McKown, 46, who was off-duty, instead fired his pistol at a tree stump behind his summer camp, then laid the gun down.
Police went to camp in the town of Elizabethtown on June 6, after McKown called 911 to say he’d been approached by a group of eight to 10 Black males and then exchanged gunshots with one of them.
When they arrived, troopers allegedly found McKown asleep inside the camp and intoxicated. After being awakened, he said the story about a gun battle was a fiction and he’d fired the gun at the stump to scare the youths away.
The youths said McKown had confronted them as they walked by, asking questions they refused to answer, and they went to the camp they were staying at without further difficulty.
State Police initially closed their investigation without filing charges, but activists and community leaders sent a petition with more than 700 signatures to Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague requesting a more in-depth inquiry.
Sprague then contacted police on Aug. 10 and asked for “additional investigative steps.”
She said she was never given a copy of the original police report on the incident.
Cohoes Police allowed McKown to retire rather than file internal charges against him over the incident. Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler said that was the most certain outcome in the matter.
In 2018, McKown was suspended without pay for 30 days by Cohoes after pleading guilty to reckless driving after first being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in Illinois.
A message for comment left at a phone number for McKown was not returned.
Matthew Melewski, an attorney representing signers of the petition, said reopening the investigation was a good preliminary step.
"I speak for many in the community when I say this is a welcome development," he said by email. "But unless it’s followed by an arrest and prosecution, the promise of equal justice for all remains unfulfilled."
He said McKown has already "admitted to endangering the lives of Black youths by falsely reporting an exchange of gunfire and recklessly firing his own service weapon."
McKown was a 20 year veteran of the force and a K9 handler.