NY AG Releases Report on Officer-Involved Shooting in Elmira
ELMIRA, NY (WENY) -- After a year-long investigation by the New York State Attorney General's Office, the Office of Special Investigation on Thursday released its report on the shooting of Elmira man David Wandell by police in August 2021.
The 22-page report lays out the facts of the incident, timeline of events, body camera footage, actions by the officers involved, autopsy, ballistics, and legal analysis. In conclusion, Attorney General Letitia James said the officers' actions involving the fatal shooting of Wandell was justified, saying the AG would not be able to prove at trial beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers were not justified in their use of deadly physical force under state law.
At the time David Wandell was shot and killed, he was the subject of an officer safety alert issued to all law enforcement agencies across Chemung County. Wandell was wanted on a parole violation, had a history of violence and may be armed with an axe, the report said.
On August 27th at 11:27AM, a New York State Police investigator in an unmarked car and plain clothes spotted Wandell walking in Eldridge Park, and radioed for assistance. An Elmira Police officer responded, and had passed Wandell in her cruiser at the park at 11:36AM. The officer got out of her car, and intended to take Wandell into custody. Wandell pointed what appeared to be a gun at the officer, who then fired shots at Wandell as he fled the area. Wandell was not hit during this exchange, according to the report. Other responding officers reportedly saw Wandell point the gun at the EPD officer, heard gunfire, and saw the EPD officer fall - leading them to believe and report over the radio that an officer had been shot.
It was later discovered that Wandell had an airsoft gun, but had removed the orange safety markings. Officers did not know this was the case until after the ordeal was over and Wandell was dead.
Wandell ran for several blocks to Woodlawn cemetery, taking cover behind a small tree amid several tombstones. Body camera footage shows multiple police officers converged on Wandell, shouting at him to drop his weapon and show his hands.
Wandell raised what appeared to be a black semi-automatic handgun gun towards the officers. At 11:47AM, five of the officers fired shots at Wandell. According to the autopsy included in the report, Wandell was hit with six rounds, two of which were fatal.
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Body camera footage shows the officers approached Wandell on the ground, handcuffed him and started to administer first aid, not knowing if he was conscious or not. Emergency Medical Technicians arrived on scene at 12:00PM, and assessed Wandell, contacting Arnot Ogden Medical Center to advise that he displayed no signs of life.
According to the AG's office, New York's justification law states a person may use deadly physical force to defend against the imminent use of deadly physical force by another. AG James based on the law and evidence, the Office of Special Investigation determined criminal charges could not be pursued against the officers, based on the fact that the officers saw him what appeared to be a regular gun, had heard that he had shot at another officer in Eldridge Park, and had been warned that Wandell had a history of violence.
“In each and every case we review, my office remains committed to conducting thorough, fair, and transparent investigations,” said Attorney General James. “After an extensive review of the facts of this case, OSI determined that a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that these officers’ actions were justified.”
To read the entire 22 page report, click here.