ONEONTA MAYOR REPORTS TO PUBLIC:
Tyler Johnson, 23, Takes 2 Bullets In Chest
By MIKE FORSTER ROTHBART & JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
A 23-year-old man, Tyler Johnson, was shot twice in the chest after he allegedly pulled a knife at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 6, during a domestic dispute in a duplex at 48 River St., next to the former Foti’s Bakery.
According to Mayor Gary Herzig, who provided a report to the public via YouTube at the beginning of that evening’s Common Council meeting, two officers responded to “a domestic matter” and found a mother, a 2-year-old child and Johnson at the scene.
A neighbor said the child was Johnson’s; he identified the mother as Caitlyn Marie Calvey, and said she was Johnson’s fiancée.
“While officers were there,” said Herzig, “the third-party male did attack the mother with a knife. She sustained some wounds, but was treated and is OK. One officer acted to save the life of the child by firing two shots. The individual with the knife was injured as a result.”
At mid-afternoon, the whirring of chopper blades could be heard and a helicopter rose and circled the Sixth Ward neighborhood, Medevacing Johnson to Albany Medical Center. Herzig did not say if the man died in the helicopter or at the hospital.
At the end of his short presentation, Herzig told the Council members, “no need for questions. That’s all the information we have to give.”
Police Chief Chris Witzenburg then spoke briefly, affirming the mayor’s statement that the investigation is being handled by the state Attorney General’s Office and state police, which will have control over the flow of information.
“This is a very difficult day for Oneonta,” said Herzig, “a very difficult day for the officers of the Oneonta Police Department.” He thanked Witzenburg, who was at the scene through the afternoon, for “his leadership.”
Johnson was described in his Facebook profile as SUNY Delhi construction major who had moved to Oneonta seven months ago.
Responding to a reporter’s call, Doug Brenner, who retired as OPD chief in February, said he couldn’t remember any officer shooting a civilian in his 35-year law-enforcement career in Otsego County, including 22 years in Oneonta.
“You train for it,” he said, “but you never want it to happen. I hope he gets the help he’s going to need.”
Marcewicz, who also made a video of activity at the scene, added detail to Herzig’s account in an interview, saying Johnson, who was white, was shot at arm’s length by the officer, after Johnson allegedly stabbed his fiancee.
He said Johnson and Calvey were together with their 2-year-old son on the front lawn. When officers arrived, Johnson was holding his son and dropped him before he was shot, Marcewicz said.
As the neighbor told it, Johnson was holding a small knife when the officer shot him. He collapsed on the ground but continued to thrash around, eyewitnesses reported.
The mayor did not release the names of the officers who responded, but Marcewicz’ video shows a male and a female officer standing over the wounded man, with the female officer holding the gun while the male officer handcuffs him.
An ambulance arrived within two minutes of the shooting, and Johnson was Medevaced.
By 5 p.m., state and local police officers were still on the scene, with the block closed to vehicles and pedestrians other than residents. The tot’s teddy bear lay in the grass.
River Street will remain closed for the time being, police said, with a detour around the shooting scene via a detour on Mitchell Street and Wilcox Avenue.
►WHAT EYEWITNESSES SAW
Editor’s Note: Reporter Mike Forster Rothbart interviewed Kevin Marcewicz, who witnessed Tuesday’s fatal shooting of Tyler Johnson, 23.
Kevin Marcewicz: Well, I saw the entire thing from start to finish. Basically, the OPD responded to a domestic call. They pulled up at about 1:10 p.m. There was a male and female officer. They parked on West Ann Street and proceeded to walk around the back of the house.
Mean- while, Tyler, Caitlyn and their baby were in the front yard. Tyler’s the one who got shot. And Caitlyn is the one who got sliced with his knife, and why the OPD was called.
I had a perfect view from my dining room window. We were having a yard sale here and, unfortunately, had the view and could hear everything.
The guy had a very small pocket knife in his hand, and they were trying to free the baby out of his arms. There was a struggle between him, the girl and the police. And that’s when they realized he had the knife still in his hand.
The baby dropped, hit the ground, and the male officer turned his weapon and said, “Drop the knife.”
He didn’t give him much time to drop it then, a double tap, shot right to the torso area. He fell, hit the ground, they got him on his stomach, and the female officer kicked that knife away.
They stood over him with their weapons drawn while they dispatched more ambulances and officers. And before you knew it, this place was full of law enforcement and emergency personnel.
I heard the “boom boom” and that’s when my wife and daughter came running in this door and I went running out the back door and hit “record” on my camera immediately. I wish I had done it before, because I would have got the actual incident. I had to give my phone to the state troopers so they could extract the video as evidence. I got it from the moment after the shots were fired to basically 10-15 minutes of emergency responders showing up.
…I just I don’t understand why they didn’t use TASERS. I don’t think it was life threatening, whether or not it was a clean shooting as far as police standards go. It was a very dangerous situation. And they have a hard job.
By police standards, I’m sure that it will come back as a clean shooting – there were lives at risk, though, I think they should have used less than lethal force, especially in a residential neighborhood with children..
ROTHBART: I heard the helicopter, did they fly him?
Marcewicz: They did. But it took over an hour or two until they had him stable enough to move him. One officer on the phone with hospital said, “It looks bad, it looks real bad. And he’s probably not going to make it.”
All we can do is hope and pray that he makes it. He’s got mental health problems, domestic issues. Obviously needed help. And some bad decisions were made by him and possibly by law enforcement today.
Rothbart: So how old is their baby?
Marcewicz: Less than 2, I believe. The mother was bleeding and standing outside in her underwear. I heard the inside of the house is also a crime scene because that’s where the actual slicing or stabbing took place.
…Right after the shooting, you couldn’t even see blood yet. And then I’d say two minutes, three minutes past all of a sudden blood everywhere, just everywhere. And yeah, all the markers are around. One is where the knife got kicked to. That’s the one further, the furthest to the left. And then the others, you know, the baby was holding that bear. The other is clothing that they had to cut off of him, I believe. And then some shell casings. So I’m pretty sure that’s the gist of that evidence there.
…I mean, just thank God the gun was pointed that way and it didn’t ricochet and hit a child or anybody you know, another innocent bystander. I hope in the future they use their TASERS, man, that’s why they have them. But again, I can’t put myself in their shoes and I know it’s a hard job. I’m not against the police. You know, you heard a lot of people out here screaming … “You guys are monsters.” And they’ve got a hard job to do. And I’m friends with a lot of them. I just think today could have been handled a little differently. But again, I’m not a cop, and I wouldn’t want to be.