SLPD officers returning from leave after fatal shooting
State investigation into July shooting not yet complete
SARANAC LAKE — The two Saranac Lake police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a man with a knife at the Stewart’s Shops in Saranac Lake in July are returning to the force after being on administrative leave for two months.
The investigation into the shooting by New York State Police and the state Attorney General’s Office has not been completed yet, but SLPD Chief Darin Perrotte said he doesn’t have any indication that the officers can’t return.
“It’s essentially up to the discretion of the village and the police chief,” Perrotte said. “We don’t feel that there’s anything criminal going to be coming out of it.”
He said there are two aspects of this investigation — the criminal side, which he does not believe will bring any charges; and policy recommendations, which he said could involve the state requesting or requiring certain policy changes or trainings.
Officer Gabrielle Beebe has already returned to the force, Perrotte said. She was lunged at by the man with a knife, Joshua De’Miguel Kavota, before Officer Aaron Sharlow fired two shots, fatally hitting Kavota in the chest.
Sharlow will be returning within the next two weeks or so, Perrotte said.
Village Manager Erik Stender said it was up to Sharlow when he came back, and he had requested more time before returning.
Perrotte said Sharlow is reluctant to talk about the shooting, saying he’s “tight-lipped.”
Perrotte said there is still no word on when the reports with the state’s findings will be released. He said state investigators recently returned some of the officers’ equipment that was taken for evidence back to the department.
Sharlow and Beebe responded to the Stewart’s Shops parking lot around 8:30 a.m. on June 29 after receiving a report of a stabbing on Bloomingdale Avenue. Kavota, 33, of Saranac Lake had been in an altercation with a mental health advocate and allegedly stabbed him before walking over to the gas station parking lot.
Beebe approached Kavota — who was standing outside the front door of Stewart’s Shops in Saranac Lake — and asked him to hand over the knife in his pocket. After a brief exchange, Kavota took the knife — what appeared in body camera footage to be a fixed-blade kitchen knife with a wooden handle — out of his pocket. Kavota charged at Beebe with the knife. She screamed, moved backward and fell.
Sharlow shot Kavota as Kavota stood over Beebe. Beebe began treating Kavota’s gunshot wounds within a minute of the shots, but Kavota was later transported to Adirondack Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
The Adirondack Diversity Initiative revealed that the man who was stabbed by Kavota prior to police arriving was a mental health advocate who had been called to help Kavota after he was reported acting erratically.
Kavota was under the care of Lakeside House, a human services organization that focuses on housing people with mental illness in town.
The man who was stabbed was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries and released that same day, according to village police.
On July 2, members of ADI, after reviewing body camera footage prior to it being released to the public, said they “do not believe it was a racially motivated incident.” Kavota was a person of color; Sharlow is white.
“It appears from the evidence that the officer’s life was in imminent danger,” ADI wrote in a statement.
Stender said the department currently has 11 members — seven officers and four sergeants. But two of those officers — Ashley Pittman and Katie Fischer — were hired in June, are still in the academy and can’t be on patrol until next year. So the departments’ real count is closer to nine members for now.
Stender said, ideally, it would have 11 members.
The academy lasts around four months, followed by six months of supervised on-the-job training.
In August, the village board approved the creation of a special events patrol officer position and an assistant chief position to fill in for public events patrols and administrative duties during a time of low staffing.
Village Mayor Jimmy Williams said these positions needed to be created keep the department from cutting its night shift.
The board authorized former SLPD officer Casey Reardon to be the assistant chief. Stender said Reardon has been working well in this new role.