Hampden DA: Fatal shooting of Orlando Taylor by police was 'reasonable and unavoidable'
The Hampden District Attorney has declared a fatal shooting by a Springfield, Massachusetts, police officer on January 9 to be justified.
Police say 23-year-old Orlando Taylor, during what his family said was a mental health crisis, stabbed Officer Arjel Falcon in the face and neck. Shortly afterwards, officials said, Taylor charged at Falcon with the knife raised, and the officer fired his weapon twice.
District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said his office examined body camera footage from Falcon and his partner, as well as additional video from the incident, and took witness statements.
“It is this office's opinion that Officer Falcon’s use of deadly force was reasonable and unavoidable in the interest of his own safety that of his partners and that of the public,” Gulluni said during a press conference Friday afternoon.
Gulluni also said use of a taser would not have been appropriate in this situation.
"After the stabbing, Mr. Taylor was too far away from the officer to allow for an effective taser deployment," according to a memo from Gulluni's office. "Furthermore, Mr. Taylor had used deadly force in stabbing Officer Falcon in the face. Given the demonstrated and potential lethality of Mr. Taylor’s actions, attempting to use a taser would have placed Officer Falcon and his partner at additional and avoidable risk."
Officials on Friday released the body camera footage to the public. (Warning: The footage is graphic and disturbing, showing both the stabbing and shooting.)
Taylor's grandmother, Earlene Victoria Taylor, praised Gulluni, but said the family does not consider the shooting to be justified.
"I wasn't expecting anything less," Taylor said of the DA's decision. "I kind of knew that's what was going to happen, because they had to go by the law. Mr. Gulluni, he has been very, very helpful to me and my family. He has never made us feel in any way uncomfortable."
Still, Taylor disputed the prosecutor's finding that a taser could not have been used instead of a firearm.
"They were chasing my grandson up the street [after the stabbing]," she said. "So they were right behind him, and you tell me you couldn't tase him?"
Taylor said the family is considering legal action. She reiterated past statements calling for additional training of Springfield police officer about how to deal with people in mental health crises.
Falcon has been an officer in Springfield since 2013, according to the police, and earned a commendation for delivering emergency first aid. Falcon had moved to Springfield from Puerto Rico when he was 19 years old, according to the department, and served in the Army and later the Air Force, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A department spokesperson said Falcon has suffered permanent nerve damage from the stabbing and will undergo additional surgery in the near future.
"[Police] Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood and I again express our thoughts and prayers to the grieving family, as well as good health, a speedy recovery and encouragement to our brave and dedicated police officer on his surgery," Mayor Domenic Sarno said in a statement after Gulluni's press conference.
Sarno also thanked the DA, and said the video "speaks for itself."
The Taylor family and others have criticized Sarno and Clapprood for remarks they made the day of the shooting, when they lauded the actions of the officers and the mayor declared, “In my eyes, unfortunately, it was justified.”
Gulluni was asked Friday whether Sarno and Clapprood should have announced their conclusions just hours after the shooting.
"No, they shouldn't have. But my job was unchanged and my job is to examine the facts, collect the evidence and make a decision pursuant to the law," Gulluni said. "I did my best to be transparent and communicative with the public, as we will going forward, providing all the evidence, and draw a conclusion that I hope the public understands and accepts. But what other officials did really, really doesn't have a bearing on my job."