Man with knife shot by police in Saranac Lake
Shooting followed police response to report of a stabbing
SARANAC LAKE — A man who police say stabbed a civilian, and who eyewitnesses say was brandishing a knife at a police officer, was shot and killed by village police in Saranac Lake Wednesday morning.
Saranac Lake Police Department Chief Darin Perrotte said a male civilian was stabbed at Stewart’s Shops on Bloomingdale Avenue, then the man who stabbed the civilian was shot by an SLPD officer. Cody Sanford, a man who witnessed the shooting, said the man with the knife “lunged” at the police officer before he was shot. Police say the man “charged” the officer.
The man who was shot has died, police confirmed. The victim of the initial stabbing was transported to Adirondack Medical Center, and his injuries “are not considered to be life threatening,” according to New York State Police. Adirondack Health spokesman Matt Scollin said he was deferring the release of information to police.
The identity of the man who died had not yet been confirmed by police as of press time Wednesday, because his family has not been notified yet, according to SLPD. The identity of the stabbing victim is also unclear.
Perrotte said in a statement that he has asked the State Police and the state Attorney General’s Office to assume control of the investigation “to ensure transparency.” Members of the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office are also assisting with the investigation.
“New York State Police and Attorney General’s Office will work in a timely fashion to complete this investigation,” he said in a statement. “We will do our best to keep the family and community apprised of the progress of the investigation.”
“There is no danger to the public,” State Police said in a press release.
A representative of Stewart’s Shops declined to comment.
According to a preliminary State Police investigation, at around 8:30 a.m., two SLPD officers responded to a reported stabbing at Stewart’s.
“When they arrived on the scene, the officers encountered a subject armed with a knife, and a confrontation ensued,” State Police wrote. “One of the officers fired their duty weapon and struck the male, who has died.”
In a press release, SLPD detailed what it found in a preliminary investigation.
“Officers instructed the male to surrender the knife. The male refused and charged the officer with the knife. The officer tried to move away and stumbled as she retreated. The second officer at the incident discharged his service weapon, stopping the suspect from getting to the fallen officer,” the press release reads. “Officers immediately rendered first aid and called for an ambulance.”
The man with the knife was transported to AMC, where he was pronounced dead.
A pile of clothes were left in the parking lot Wednesday morning — boots, jeans and a shirt, as well as what appeared to be a paramedic’s bag and gloves.
Police taped off a small section of the scene shortly after the shooting, then taped off the entire Stewart’s Shop parking lot at 9:18 a.m. Bloomingdale Avenue was shut down from Broadway to Church Street for several hours as numerous law enforcement agencies gathered information — interviewing witnesses and Stewart’s Shop employees; nailing crime scene markers into the pavement; taking photos and drone footage.
Perrotte said the entire section of street was a crime scene.
On the corner with the Adirondack Carousel, Stewart’s Shops employees called family and friends to tell them they were safe.
“Chief Perrotte extends his condolences to the family of the deceased,” the press release from SLPD reads. “This is a tragic incident that will have a heavy impact on the family, officers and our community.”
Perrotte said the investigation will be “complex,” will involve numerous statements, a review of collected data, and substantial analysis of evidence by the forensic laboratory and other sources; and will take some time to complete.
Sanford, of Saranac Lake, witnessed the shooting.
Sanford told the Enterprise that he was on his way to work when he saw a man walking in the middle of the road with a knife, following two people. At that point, Sanford called the police. When the people the man was following got in their car and drove away, Sanford said the man then walked to Stewart’s and asked a few people for cigarettes. Then, the man stood outside the store’s front door.
The police were at Stewart’s and an officer spoke with the man, Sanford said.
“(The officer) was very cordial. She came up and she said, ‘Hey, can I see the knife?’ He said, ‘No, I can’t do that.’ And she said, ‘Well, I’m going to need you to pull the knife out and show me.’ That’s the point when he pulled out the knife and he lunged at her,” Sanford said. “It happened so fast … I just saw him lunge at her, her kind of stumble up against the car, I heard two shots and then a body hit the ground.”
Sanford described the officer and the man as standing within a few feet of one another. He said it looked like it was a pocket knife that the man was holding.
Sanford stressed that he felt the police officers were just doing their job and that police immediately started “life-saving procedures.” He said that because the man was Black and the officer was white, he didn’t want the community to “misunderstand.”
“I felt bad for her; you could see it in her face. What got me the most was probably the look on her face,” he said. “She probably feels so bad. That’s what hurt me the most. … She kept her composure. You could tell she did not want it to go down that way.”
Saranac Lake artist Tim Fortune was working on a mural at a basketball court nearby Wednesday morning when he heard screaming.
“I heard someone scream ‘no, no,’ and it sounded like a female voice,” he said. “Then I heard two shots. One after the other. ‘Bang, bang.’ That’s when I walked over to see what was happening.
“A person was laying on the ground, (police) were tending to him,” he added.
Fortune said he saw police performing CPR on the man.
“It was pretty shocking to hear someone scream like that, and then followed by the two shots. It was pretty apparent that it was something serious,” he said.
Frederick Sullivan, of Saranac Lake, said he was in the bathroom at Stewart’s when the incident happened, so he didn’t see much. But he was shocked by the violence.
“Why would this happen in Saranac Lake?” Sullivan asked.
He was happy the officer involved, whom he knows, was safe. But he wondered why they didn’t use their taser.
Numerous law enforcement and investigation agencies were involved in the aftermath — including State Police, the Lake Placid Police Department, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, state Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers, the North Country Crime Analysis Center, the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office and state Attorney General’s Office.
Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or who has additional information is asked to contact State Police at 518-873-2750.
This is a breaking news story. More will be added to this report.