By Lana Bellamy
The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.
A grand jury did not charge three city police officers in the controversial fatal shooting of 27-year-old Tyrell “Rex” Fincher that occurred in March in the City of Newburgh, Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler told reporters on Friday.
Hoovler discussed the results of his office’s parallel investigation assisted by state police, and released full footage from a City of Newburgh police officer’s body-worn camera and street-camera footage showing the lead-up to the shooting that also wounded a city police officer in his shoulder.
“In this case, I believe the grand jury made the right decision,” Hoovler told reporters at a news conference in Goshen.
City police were looking for Fincher so he could be questioned about suspected involvement in a shots-fired incident that happened the day prior, Hoovler said.
An examining pathologist concluded Fincher died from four gunshot wounds to his torso, Hoovler said. He noted that based on Fincher’s injuries, he was facing officers when he was shot.
Contrary to what was said at a news conference hosted by Hoovler the day after the shooting, evidence found that Fincher did not fire at officers, though Hoovler said Fincher attempted to early on in the incident.
Hoovler showed photos of Fincher’s gun at the scene with two live bullets jammed in the chamber.
“We believed at that time that that’s exactly what happened. We made that decision based on the available evidence we had at that moment in time, but that was not correct,” Hoovler said. “What is correct is that he (Fincher) did not fire. But, again, we had that press conference that day because we were trying to calm what was happening in the City of Newburgh….”
Shortly after the shooting on March 27, hundreds of people took to the streets in Newburgh. Emergency and police agencies from around the region responded. Later that night, a riot broke out that included a fire in the middle of the intersection of Carpenter Avenue and First Street.
At Friday’s press conference, Hoovler was accompanied by the new Newburgh city police Chief Arnold Amthor. Earlier this week, Amthor extended an invitation to families of people who’d been shot and killed by Newburgh police to meet for dialogue. At that time, this case was still under investigation and not eligible.
Here are some more details about the incident and takeaways from the news conference:
— Fincher was wanted for questioning in a shots fired incident near 98 Benkard Ave. that occurred the day prior. A department-wide email to city officers sent March 27 at 1:42 p.m. warned police to use caution when approaching Fincher.
“Use caution when dealing with Fincher,” the email said, “he usually has the gun on him in a black pouch. He was last seen with the gun yesterday on S. Lander and Renwick.”
— Police first saw Fincher about 5 p.m. on March 27 near William Street and West Parmenter. Hoovler said when Fincher saw officers, he fled but was soon cornered in the 40 block of William Street.
Hoovler said officers noted Fincher was carrying a black shoulder pouch. When officers approached him, Fincher pulled out a silver and black, semi-automatic pistol.
“While the officers closed in on Fincher, Fincher pointed the gun at Officer Ricardo Rivera and tried to fire it,” Hoovler said Friday. “The weapon jammed because Fincher had improperly racked it.”
Fincher started to run away and was confronted by two other city police officers. One of the officers engaged in a struggle with Fincher and was struck in his head by Fincher’s gun, Hoovler said. The other officer joined the struggle.
Seconds later, Hoovler said, three officers fired a combined five shots at point-blank range at Fincher, and four shots killed him.
— Body camera footage shows Newburgh police officers administering CPR to Fincher before he was taken to nearby Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
— Hoovler said it appears the officer who was wounded in his shoulder was shot in friendly fire.
— Hoovler said Fincher did not legally own the semi-automatic pistol that he had during the incident.
— Using presentation boards, Hoovler showed reporters toxicology results from a report by NMS Labs in Pennsylvania, an aerial image of the scene from the New York State Police Collision Reconstruction Unit, multiple photos of Fincher’s semi-automatic pistol laying on the ground near a black shoulder pouch that shows bullets jammed in the chamber, and an autopsy report by the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office.
— The autopsy report ruled the cause of death to be gunshots to Fincher’s torso.
Grand jury proceedings are secret, Hoovler noted.
Asked if it is possible Fincher was unaware of the police presence when he was initially encountered, Hoovler said, “Every officer was in uniform. Every officer was in a marked car. And if you look at the video, when he sees the officers approaching from a different angle, he adjusts what he’s doing. So he had to know they were coming to arrest him. There is no possibility, there’s no reasonable set of facts or circumstances that would indicate Mr. Fincher didn’t know who these people were.”
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