Saranac Lake police chief IDs man shot by officer
Officers also identified, on administrative leave during investigation
SARANAC LAKE — Saranac Lake Village Police Chief Darin Perrotte on Thursday identified the man who stabbed a person and was fatally shot by an SLPD officer on Wednesday as Joshua De’Miguel Kavota, 33, of Saranac Lake.
Perrotte also identified Aaron Sharlow as the SLPD officer who shot Kavota after Kavota stabbed a man on Bloomingdale Avenue, and SLPD Officer Gabrielle Beebe as the officer whom Kavota “charged” at with a knife in the Stewart’s Shops parking lot Wednesday.
Both Sharlow and Beebe are have been placed on administrative leave, Perrotte said, adding that this is standard policy during the course of an investigation. Perrotte has turned control of the investigation over to New York State Police and the state Attorney General’s Office “to ensure transparency.”
Perrotte said police plan to release body camera footage of the incident in the “near future” and asked for “patience” as the investigation continues. After news spread of the shooting on Wednesday, some people around the community, and on social media, began discussing the case within the broader context of the national debate over police use of force and race. Kavota was Black and the officers are white.
The identity of the initial stabbing victim has not been released. Perrotte said State Police have asked for his identity to be withheld for now. He was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries and released on Wednesday, according to village police.
Michael Sikirica, a medical examiner at Glens Falls Hospital, conducted an autopsy on Thursday and determined Kavota’s cause of death to be “severe bilateral hemothorax, perforation of right lung, heart and inferior vena cava due to gunshot wound of chest.”
Sharlow and Beebe responded to the Stewart’s Shops at around 8:30 a.m. for a report of a stabbing. They approached Kavota and asked him to turn over the knife, according to SLPD press releases.
“(He) subsequently drew the knife, charging at (Beebe), causing her to fall to the ground as she retreated,” a Thursday news release from SLPD reads.
Sharlow fired two rounds, hitting Kavota in the chest, according to Perrote. Officers and bystanders began rendering aid to Kavota, Perrotte said.
Kavota was transported to Adirondack Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Village Mayor Jimmy Williams issued a statement on the shooting on Wednesday evening.
“It is with a heavy heart that I draft this message to recognize the traumatic event that shook our tight-knit community today,” Williams wrote. “This tragic loss of life, the extreme bravery of our local Police Officers, and the incredible actions of our First Responders will leave a mark on all of us far beyond today.
“The investigation is ongoing, but we will provide more information to all of you as soon as we are able,” he continued. “This is a very tough day for our community. Please focus on caring for one another right now. This is paramount in our effort to move forward together.”
Last year, Sharlow attended a Crisis Intervention Team training run by the Institute for Police, Mental Health and Community Collaboration, which was designed to improve police interactions with people in mental health, substance abuse or emotional crises.
The SLPD has a pilot Counselor and Law Enforcement Partnership, which embeds a therapist in the department to assist on mental health and addiction calls.
However, these therapists do not respond with police to emergencies. They are only brought in once police deem a scene to be safe.
Mark Palyswiat owns Casier Furniture on Bloomingdale Avenue. With large store windows, he’s able to see and hear a lot of what goes on in his stretch of the street. He saw the initial fight which brought police to Bloomingdale Avenue on Wednesday.
“I was sitting here doing my work and all of a sudden I hear this screaming — ‘Stay off my f***ing property!’ — Over and over again,” Palyswiat told the Enterprise on Thursday.
He saw a man get out of a car in the parking lot on the corner of Broadway and Bloomingdale Avenue and shout at Kavota.
“They started chasing each other and swinging,” Palyswiat said. “Right in front of the (Number One) Chinese restaurant in the middle of the road where the double yellow line is.”
While they were wrestling down on the ground, he said, the man from the car must have been stabbed. Palyswiat watched him get back in his car and drive away. Palyswiat said he never saw the knife Kavota held and didn’t know the other man had been stabbed until later. Perrotte confirmed on Thursday that the man was stabbed in the street opposite Palyswiat’s shop.
Kavota started walking toward Stewart’s, Palyswiat said, and soon after, he saw a police car whizz down the street to the gas station, so he walked out to watch.
Within 20 seconds of him standing there, Palyswiat said he saw an officer fire two shots at the man, who stayed up for several seconds before falling down to the ground. He said he didn’t see the altercation itself, where other bystanders said Kavota “lunged” at police with the knife. Palyswiat said officers were a couple feet away from Kavota when he was shot.
Palyswiat said he saw the Stewart’s Shops manager rush out and put pressure on Kavota’s chest.
“She’s there pressing on his chest trying to keep him from bleeding out,” Palyswiat said.
He said Sharlow began doing CPR as Beebe shouted for people to “Get back!”
Meanwhile, he said people pulled in and out of the parking lot and walked in and out of the store.
“When that was going on it was just like a regular day,” Palyswiat said.
It was shocking, he said.
“I couldn’t even believe the gun went off,” Palyswiat said.
Palyswiat said he’d seen Kavota around before — his store is right across the street from the apartment Kavota was living in. He said he saw Kavota acting “odd,” but he had never seen him aggressive before.
Eric Sperger is a property manager for Nicastro & Cantwell, who said Kavota was a tenant of his at 12 Bloomingdale Ave. — an apartment building on the corner of Broadway and Bloomingdale Avenue down the street from Stewart’s — for around three weeks.
Sperger said Kavota was a client of Lakeside House, a human services organization that focuses on housing people with mental illness in town. Lakeside House supported Kavota’s rent at the apartment and he had been living there independently after moving from Lakeside House on River Street, Sperger said.
Sperger said Kavota would tell people he was homeless and ask for money. Sperger said he would sometimes get “aggressive” when people would not. He said he reported Kavota to Lakeside House last week for “aggressive behavior” at Stewart’s, and that other tenants in the building had concerns.
Anna Squires lives near Kavota’s apartment. She said she called Lakeside House three times the morning of the fatal shooting because she had seen him jump from his second-floor balcony, and later, found him laying on the floor in a hallway and mumbling.
She said he was acting stranger than ever before.
Squires said she also called Lakeside House last week with concerns but she thinks no one ever showed up.
Squires said she felt that Lakeside should have been checking on him more often.
“If they would have came … that kid might be still alive,” she said. “I blame Lakeside for not coming. I really do … it’s sad.”
“He shouldn’t have been unsupervised, living alone,” Sperger said.
Lakeside House Residence Manager Peter Wood declined to comment Thursday, saying he needs to speak with the organization’s board first. Wood said he may be able to comment more, and give more details about who Kavota was after speaking with his board.
“It’s a tragedy,” Wood said.
Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or who has additional information is asked to contact State Police at 518-873-2750.