News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.


Oneonta Police

Oneonta Police: Two Arrested For Stealing From Cars


Homeless Man Arrested

For 4th Time Since July 31

Chief: Drug Abuse At Root; No Help Available

ONEONTA – Oneonta Police report arresting a second homeless man for stealing items from unlocked cars over the past week, and it’s the fourth time the suspect was arrested  two months.

Keegan Allen, 22, homeless, was arrested following a report that someone had been rifling through cars on Hudson Street. Allen was located near the scene and admitted to going into cars and taking items, police said.

According to Oneonta Police Chief Doug Brenner, Allen also was arrested on July 31 for criminal possession of a controlled substance, on Aug. 12 for taking items from a vehicle, and on Aug. 20 for shoplifting, and was issued an appearance ticket for each.

“It’s sad,” said Brenner. “The base problem is substance abuse, and we can’t get him the help he needs.”

With COVID Outbreak, Oneonta ‘A Ghost Town’

With COVID Outbreak,

Oneonta ‘A Ghost Town’

In 23 years, OPD Lieutenant Witzenberg had never seen Main Street so deserted on a Saturday night. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – In 23 years with the Oneonta Police Department, Lt. Christopher J. Witzenburg
had never seen a Saturday night like Aug. 29.

“It’s never been this quiet,” he said. “It’s a real departure from last weekend, where we just had a ton of house parties. It’s like a switch flipped.”

With more than 200 students sickened with COVID-19 following “several large parties” last weekend, SUNY Oneonta issued threats of suspension and Mayor Gary Herzig had strong warnings to try and quell the outbreak.

The Red Jug, a popular pub with college students, was closed after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. There were no lines of waiting customers outside other bars on Main and Water streets.
According to Police Chief Doug Brenner, two tickets were issued for noise complaints on Friday evening Aug. 28. “They seemed surprised when we showed up,” he said.

“We show up, ask people politely to leave and then refer them to the college,” said Witzenburg. “We’re trying to do things differently, but still hold people accountable.”

Students ticketed are then referred to the college’s disciplinary system. So far five students have been placed on an interim suspension and three organizations have been suspended for the remainder of the academic year.

“The college has been taking swift action on suspending students who host these parties,” said Brenner. “I think by Saturday, the word had gotten around and tempered a lot of the student activity.”

On Saturday, the few students who were downtown, Witzenburg noted, were mostly masked.
“It’s a ghost town,” said Mayor Gary Herzig.

Herzig himself has been observing the streets since Weekend One, and found himself in a minor altercation when he came upon a group of young men, “acting rowdy.”

“They were not wearing masks,” said Herzig. “But they all split when they saw the cops pull up.”
City Hall’s “tip line” – established to report large gatherings and unmasked revelers – kept Witzenburg busy, following complaints of house parties throughout Center City.

There were less there than expected.

At one, five of the six people who were, as the call reported, throwing a “large party,” lived in the house. The sixth was a boyfriend of one of the residents.

At another, where loud music could be heard through the window, Witzenburg observed three people playing beer pong in the living room.

“Every single one of the calls was unfounded,” he said. “We showed up to one large party and it was four people.”

Students face suspension if they are found to be in violation of the school’s COVID code of conduct. Following Weekend One’s reports of partying, one sorority has been suspended and Greek Rush Week cancelled.

“Usually by now, we’ve got a predictable rhythm,” said Witzenburg. “You know which bars are going to be a problem, you know where the party houses are, you develop strategies to maintain some semblance of order. But this year, everything has stopped. There’s no way to reasonably predict where a party will pop up.”

He drove past a house with a “Happy Hour” sign lit up in the window. There were colored party lights on, but he couldn’t see anyone inside.

“I keep saying it,” he said. “But it really is surreal.”

Juvenile Arrested In Tire-Damage Spree

Juvenile Arrested

In Tire-Damage Spree

ONEONTA – One juvenile was arrested and a second is awaiting charges following 29 incidents where car tires were punctured and other personal property items were damaged last week in Oneonta’s East End.

In all, the juvenile, whose name was not released because of their age, was charged with 23 misdemeanors and six felonies after they allegedly slashed and punctured the tires of more than 20 vehicles on Fair Street, Hudson Street, Belmont Circle, North Belmont Circle, Forest Avenue and Rose Avenue.

20 Tires Punctured Overnight In Oneonta

20 Tires Punctured

Overnight In Oneonta

ONEONTA – Oneonta Police are seeking the suspects in more than 20 incidents of tires punctured overnight in Oneonta’s East End.

“We started getting calls at 10 a.m. this morning,” said Police Chief Doug Brenner. “And we’ve been collecting statements all day.”

Police: Man Falsely Accused Man Of Having Handgun
Told Officers ‘Shoot Out’ Imminent; No Weapons Found

Police: Man Falsely Accused

Man Of Brandishing Handgun

ONEONTA – An Oneonta man was arrested after he allegedly made a series of calls to the Oneonta Police Department, falsely accusing neighbors of being “involved in a drug deal” and brandishing a handgun.

According to Police Chief Doug Brenner, Thomas E. Harker, 64, Oneonta, allegedly called the Oneonta Police department yesterday afternoon, first to report an alleged drug deal, then made a second call, where he allegedly told police he witnessed one of the two men pull out a handgun.

“He told officers there was going to be ‘a shoot-out’,” said Brenner.

OPD Chief Reports: 4 ODs In 48 Hours


OPD Chief Reports

4 ODs In 48 Hours

Beware Of ‘Bad Batch,’ Brenner Says

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – Oneonta Police have been called to four heroin overdoses in the last 48 hours, prompting fears that a “bad batch” may be on the streets, according to Police Chief Doug Brenner.

“Each time, our officers had to use both of their Narcan kits to revive the person,” said Brenner. “That tells us that it’s a heavy overdose, possibly tainted with fentanyl.”

Oneonta Man Arrested After Robbery Spree

Oneonta Man Arrested

After Robbery Spree

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Brian Ruple, 41, Oneonta, was arrested and charged with robbing four gas stations in the early-morning hours of Friday, April 24.

ONEONTA – Following four gas station robberies, including one where a clerk was stabbed, an Oneonta man has been arrested and charged in the five-hour spree across Oneonta and Otego overnight and into Friday morning.

“I called Mayor Herzig after we made the arrest,” said Oneonta Police Chief Doug Brenner. “I told him, ‘we got him, you can sleep well tonight’.”

Bryan Ruple, 41, Oneonta, was arrested last night, both by City of Oneonta police and State Police Troop C.

According to Brenner, Ruple’s first attempt was at the Kwik Fill, where he allegedly attempted to grab cash out of an open register drawer. The clerk slammed Ruple’s hand in the drawer to stop him, and Ruple allegedly stabbed him with a small knife before fleeing the store without any money.

Suspect Sought In 4 Stick-Ups At Quick-Stops


Suspect Sought

In 4 Stick-Ups

At Quick-Stops

In One Case, Clerk Stabbed In Hand

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

State Police released this surveillance photo of a man wanted for questioning in a series of gas station robberies in Oneonta and Otego early this morning.

ONEONTA – Four gas-station robberies were reported between 1:20 a.m. and 6:20 a.m. today in the city and town of Oneonta, and in Otego, city police and state troopers report.

In one case, the clerk was stabbed in the hand; in at least two of the other cases, the suspect said he was armed, but didn’t show a weapon,  police said.

According to a release from the Oneonta Police Department, the spree began at 1:20 a.m., when officers were called to the Kwik Fill convenience store, 66 Chestnut St., for a reported attempted robbery.

“The clerk told us the man purchased a snack, and when the register was open, he tried to grab the money,” said Oneonta Police Chief Doug Brenner.

Birthday Party Cancelled? Have A Parade Instead!

Birthday Party Cancelled?

Have A Parade Instead!

There was lots of hooting, hollering and horn-blowing on Elm Street in Oneonta this afternoon as 13 cars filled with friends, family, teachers and classmates, all dressed in costumes with signs and decorations, were escorted by Oneonta police in a birthday parade for Zoey Tonner, who turned 7 today. “The invitations were ready, the treat bags were all made, then everything shut down,” explained her mother Danielle. “We had to cancel her party because of social distancing, so this is her coronavirus substitute!” The party was held at the home of Zoey’s babysitter Sarah Baden, where Zoey, seen at right with brother Rob and Dad “Fish”, waved to passersby from the lawn and porch, which were covered in decorations. As the parade passed by, Zoey took pictures with her camera as people hopped out to wish her “Happy Birthday” and leave presents and cards in a basket by the curb. (Ian Austin/


Lettis Highway Accident Victim Identified

Lettis Highway Accident

Victim Identified, In ICU

ONEONTA – Oneonta Police have identified the woman struck by a car last night on the Lettis Highway as April Johnson, 32, Oneonta.

Johnson allegedly crossed the highway in an area not marked for pedestrians and was struck by a car driven by David Shafer, 41, Otsego. She was taken by ambulance to Fox Hospital and transferred to Albany Medical Center, where she was admitted to the intensive care unit.

Oneonta Woman In Critical Condition After Being Struck By Car

Oneonta Woman

In Critical Condition

After Lettis Accident

Oneonta Police and Fire responded to the scene at Lettis Highway, where an Oneonta woman was critically injured after being struck by a car. (James Cummings/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – An Oneonta woman is in critical condition at Fox Hospital after she was struck by a car on the Lettis Highway earlier this evening.

According to Police Chief Doug Brenner, an Oneonta woman was walking with a friend when she allegedly crossed the James F. Lettis Highway approximately 100 yards from the intersection of Main Street.

“The area is not marked for pedestrians and it is dimly lit,” said Brenner.


Exit 15 Ramp Closed After Accident



By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – Police are on the scene of a motor vehicle accident on the James F. Lettis Highway after a pedestrian was allegedly hit by a car this evening.

According to Rob O’Brien, Otsego Count 911 director, a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle near the I-88 Exit 15 westbound off-ramp at 7:42 p.m. The pedestrian was transported to Fox Hospital with serious injuries.

The ramp and Lettis Highway have been closed, and police are asking that the public avoid the area. The accident is under investigation.

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