Grand jury clears Newburgh cops in shooting death of suspect

DA: use of deadly physical force was justified

Posted 10/16/20

An Orange County Grand Jury has declined to file charges against three City of Newburgh Police Officers who shot and killed a Newburgh man on March 27.

The three officers fired a total of five …

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Grand jury clears Newburgh cops in shooting death of suspect

DA: use of deadly physical force was justified

Posted

An Orange County Grand Jury has declined to file charges against three City of Newburgh Police Officers who shot and killed a Newburgh man on March 27.

The three officers fired a total of five rounds in self-defense, after attempting to arrest Tyrell Fincher, 27, of the City of Newburgh, for firearms-related offenses. Fincher died of injuries he received in the incident. The grand jury’s determination, known as a “no bill,” ended the grand jury’s investigation, and means that no criminal charges will be brought against the officers involved.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office, aided by the New York State Police, conducted an investigation of the incident, which was independent of, and in addition to, the grand jury’s investigation. Under a pending Governor’s Executive Order, incidents involving allegations that police used deadly physical force against “unarmed” civilians must be investigated by the New York State Attorney General’s Office. After consultation with the Attorney General’s Office, however, it was determined that the investigation would most appropriately be handled by the District Attorney’s Office, since the deceased was armed with a semi-automatic pistol at the time of the incident. 

The District Attorney’s investigation revealed:

- On March 26, 2020, City of Newburgh police officers began investigating a “shots-fired” call in the area of 98 Benkard Avenue. The investigation continued into the next day.

- On March 27, police identified Tyrell Fincher as a suspect in the shots-fired incident from the night before. At about 1:42 p.m., a police-department-wide email was issued to all officers in the City of Newburgh, indicating that Fincher was involved in the shots-fired incident. The email advised officers to use caution when encountering Fincher and indicated that he usually concealed a gun in a black bag that he carried. 

 - At about 5  p.m. on March 27,  officers saw Fincher in the area of William and West Parmenter Streets in the City of Newburgh. Fincher tried to flee but was soon cornered in the 40 block of William Street. At the time, Fincher was carrying a black shoulder pouch. As officers approached Fincher, he pulled from the pouch a silver and black Lorcin .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol.

     While officers closed in on Fincher, he pointed the gun at Officer Ricardo Rivera and tried to fire it. The weapon jammed because Fincher had improperly racked it. Fincher ran from Officer Rivera but was confronted by Officer Robert Breault and Officer Christopher Nedwetzsky. Officer Nedwetzsky engaged Fincher, while Fincher held the pistol in his right hand. Fincher struck Officer Nedwetzsky in the head with the weapon, and Officer Breault then joined the struggle. Seconds later, Officer Rivera arrived and joined the other officers in their attempt to subdue Fincher.

    During the struggle, the three officers fired five shots, striking and killing Fincher. A police sergeant with fifteen years’ experience witnessed the incident from an appropriate distance of approximately fifteen feet. Two paramedics who responded to the shooting scene saw the Lorcin pistol in the area of Fincher’s body. One of the paramedics also noted that Fincher was carrying a black shoulder-strap pouch.

- Immediately after the shooting, officers administered CPR and other live-saving measures to Fincher. The paramedics transported Fincher to Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. 

- On March 30, 2020, the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy on Fincher’s body. The examining pathologist concluded that Fincher died of four gunshot wounds to his torso. All four bullets traveled from front to back, three with a right-to-left orientation, and the fourth without any significant right-to-left deviation. The pathologist concluded that Fincher was facing the officers at the time he was shot. Fincher had no other significant injuries. Toxicology indicated that Fincher had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal intoxication limit. Toxicology also revealed that Fincher had recently used marijuana.

-  Under New York’s Penal Law, at the time the officers approached Fincher on March 27, 2020, enough evidence existed to charge Fincher with Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, a Class C felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison, for the March 26, 2020, shots-fired incident, and for his possession of the gun on March 27, 2020. A loaded and operable Lorcin .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol was recovered at the scene of the incident. The recovery of the weapon was confirmed by over a half dozen officers and by at least two paramedics who saw the weapon at the scene. 

- Fincher did not hold a New York State permit allowing him to legally possess the Lorcin pistol. 

- Ballistic evidence recovered at the scene indicated that officers fired five rounds during the encounter and attempted arrest of Fincher. Five .40-caliber casings were recovered at the scene. No .380-caliber casings were recovered. 

- The evidence further revealed that Officer Nedwetzsky was struck by gun fire during the incident, and, as a result, suffered a shoulder injury. 

- After reviewing the facts involved in the police shooting, including interviews of witnesses and police officers, and a review of the available evidence, it is the conclusion of the District Attorney’s Office that the police officers’ actions were justified under the New York State Penal Law. The incident may be separately reviewed by the City of Newburgh in order to determine whether departmental policies were followed.


  “The tragic chain of events that resulted in Mr. Fincher losing his life, and a police officer being shot, were set in motion by Mr. Fincher trying to fire a loaded pistol at a police officer,” said Hoovler. “Our investigation was comprehensive and was largely based on closely examining images from police body-worn cameras and street cameras. Those images are graphic and disturbing, but lead to the indisputable conclusion that the police officers were justified in using deadly force against Mr. Fincher, who had made the regrettable decisions to try to shoot a police officer, and to refuse to drop his weapon and submit to being arrested. It was important that this matter was fairly and exhaustively investigated, and it is just as important that the community know what evidence led to our conclusions. For that reason, we are releasing images from the body-worn cameras and street cameras. I realize that the images are graphic and I regret that those images will no doubt be disturbing for Mr. Fincher’s family and loved-ones to watch, but their release is the only way that the community can have absolute confidence in the integrity of this investigation and in the inescapable conclusion that these police officers acted in self-defense.”

The investigation was personally handled by Hoovler.

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