State Attorney General's office: Troy police review of fatal shooting was "deficient and incomplete"

NYS OAG Troy police Thevenin shooting model

An image of a 3D model of the incident prepared for OAG by a forensic analysis company called Precision Simulations, Inc. The car on the left is that of Sgt. French, Thevenin's car is in the middle, and the car on the right is that of TPD captain Matthew Montanino. The cone shapes stretching between French's car and Thevenin's are the estimated paths of the shots fired by French.

The state Attorney General's office released its report Tuesday on the fatal shooting of Edson Thevenin by Troy police in April 2016 -- and it is highly critical of the Troy Police Department.

Thevenin was shot by Troy police sergent Randall French after Thevenin fled a DWI stop and struck a divider on the entrace to the Collar City Bridge. In the version of events publicized by the TPD in the days after the shooting, French had fired after Thevenin's car pinned him against his own patrol car and he shot in self defense.

But the OAG report pointedly argues that Troy police mishandled the investigation of the incident. A clip:

The TPD was the police agency with exclusive control over the investigation for an initial critical period after the shooting. Almost immediately, and without having conducted any real investigation, the TPD publicly adopted the position that Sgt. French was pinned when he began shooting and that the shooting was therefore justified. The TPD did so notwithstanding its possession of evidence contradicting that version of events, including photographs it took of Mr. Thevenin's windshield showing trajectory rods inserted in each of the eight bullet holes. Those photographs make clear that some of the bullets were fired from different points across the front of Mr. Thevenin's car (i.e., evidence inconsistent with a pinned, immobile shooter.)
The TPD's investigation was deficient and incomplete in several respects. First, the TPD told two of the three civilian witnesses at the scene to leave without interviewing them or securing contact information, and then failed to take any action in the aftermath of the shooting to locate or follow up with them. Second, the TPD failed to appropriately and thoroughly interview a third civilian witness (who later contradicted Sgt. French's account when interviewed by the OAG). Third, the TPD failed to arrange for key forensic analyses, including incident reconstruction and formal trajectory analysis of the bullet holes through the windshield before making its public (and ultimately inaccurate) declaration that Sgt. French was pinned by Mr. Thevenin before he began shooting.

The report goes on to explain how an inability to determine the exact sequence of events prevents possible criminal prosecution of French, as does the Rensselaer County DA's decision to allow French to testify before the grand jury reviewing the case without waiving immunity. (DA Joel Abelove's handling of the case has prompted charges against him.)

The state Attorney General's office also recommends a handful of reforms for the Troy Police Department. Among them: Prohibit officers from shooting at moving a vehicle in most situations, and adopt officer body cameras.

The entire report is worth reading -- it includes detailed information on the forensic review of the case, and explains some of the legal issues involved. The report is embedded below.

Report

NYS OAG Report Edson Thevenin Shooting Troy Police by alloveralbany on Scribd

Elsewhere

The excellent More Perfect podcast from Radiolab had an episode in November that explored the history of the legal standard used to determine whether police shootings are reasonable.

Comments

"Pinned" can mean a number of things. All of those trajectories can support an individual in front of Thevenin's vehicle lunging left and right. The AG's Office needs to stop playing politics and being Mario Jr.'s lapdog. Maybe they should start do something for consumers once in a while like they are supposed to.

Glad to see this report. The whole shooting of Thenevin was fishy from the start. Unfortunately it looks like another case where a black American is put 6 feet under and police face zero consequences.

What's most interesting is that Troy police did not collect and preserve evidence in a way that would've let them charge Thenevin. And why did they let several witness go without questioning? Just a reminder, we're paying them to do this.

Sean...Sgt. French did nothing wrong. Is also something the report confirmed. Regardless of the handling of evidence the officer who fired the shot did not do so illegally.

Winnie and Ace: pls read the report, rather than rely on summaries you heard on the evening news. Troy distinguished itself by "circling the wagons" and not accepting help from more experienced investigatory agencies (such as the State Police or the NYS AG). Very common that State Police assist.

In a wholly "race neutral" way, this report does not implicate or exonerate the Police Officer involved, nor blame or exonerate the deceased.

It is chilling in how it describes the lack of investigative effort, failure to identify and interview witnesses or take steps to test the fundamental aspects of the incident (ballistic tests on guns at the scene, the ability of the damaged car to turn, etc), and the speed at which this was presented to a Grand Jury. It would be difficult to find an investigation that resulted in a death was in front of a grand jury in less than a week.

We ALL deserve better from ALL police departments. Hopefully TPD (and other PDs) will see the "bigger picture" and adopt some of the Investigatory basics and Police Policies suggested.

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