From [HERE] and [HERE] Lawyers for a 19-year-old man left paralyzed from the chest down in a police shooting sued the city of Albany in federal court Monday and released a video they say proves their client was a victim of excessive force.
Ellazer Williams contends a white city detective shot him in the back from a distance of 20 feet away as he was running away.
That contradicts the account that Albany County prosecutors say Detective James Olsen gave their investigators. Olsen, who fired the shot that struck Williams, told the investigators that Williams — armed with a large hunting knife — charged at him in a courtyard outside the former Tony Clement Center for Education at 395 Elk St.
Olsen said he had spotted a "shiny object" in Williams hand moments just before the encounter outside the former Tony Clement Center for Education at 395 Elk St.
Olsen had pursued Williams following a sequence of events that began when Williams and two other people allegedly caused a disturbance outside a store on Central Avenue.
"He yelled for the other detectives to watch (Williams') hands and, as Mr. Williams was running, he tripped onto the concrete and dropped a large hunting knife," Rossi said. "Olsen ordered Mr. Williams to get on the ground. Mr. Williams grabbed the big knife and got back up. At this time, Detective Olsen indicates that Mr. Williams ignored his command and ran in his direction with the knife."
Rossi said Olsen said that at the moment he fired his weapon he believed Williams posed deadly force to himself and other detectives.
Police also suspected Williams of carrying a gun at the time of the shooting,
A video released by the attorneys shows Williams running from Olsen, falling and then getting up to run away again before they say the shots were fired. The video does not appear to show the teen moving toward the detective.
Williams' suit filed in U.S. District Court comes three days after an Albany County grand jury cleared Olsen of any criminal wrongdoing. Williams still faces charges in Albany County Court of menacing of a police officer, a felony, and misdemeanor weapons possession.
An Albany County grand jury last week cleared Albany Detective James Olsen of criminal wrongdoing in an Aug. 20 shooting, but little changed for the 19-year-old man Olsen shot following a chase and alleged confrontation with a knife.
Ellazar Williams still has a bullet lodged in his spine. He is still paralyzed from the chest down. He still suffers severe back pain. He is confined to a bed set up in the living room of his girlfriend's second-floor apartment. He has not been outside in two months. It is difficult for two men to carry him up and down the steep, narrow stairway. Medical transport workers said it is too dangerous to navigate the stairs, which has led to canceled doctor appointments. His girlfriend does not own a car. They live on a South End street punctuated by abandoned buildings marked by a red X.
"It's hard to stay positive," Williams said. "I get mad and have little outbursts sometimes. I can't move. I'd like to go outside and get some fresh air. I'm not used to being stuck inside all the time."
Williams faces a felony charge of menacing a police officer and misdemeanor weapons possession. His attorney, Steve Sharp, a public defender, and prosecutors continue to make legal maneuvers on the case. Private lawyers retained by Williams sued the city of Albany in federal court Monday for excessive force and released a video they contend shows that Olsen shot Williams in the back from a distance of 20 feet as he was running away.
Community activists are not satisfied with the grand jury report and remarks offered by Albany County District Attorney David Soares at last week's news conference. They are calling for further investigation into what they consider incomplete evidence and conflicting police accounts of the shooting. A community forum co-sponsored by the Center for Law and Justice is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Howe branch of the Albany Public Library, 105 Schuyler St., in Albany's South End.
Williams is learning how to hoist himself into a sitting position and transfer his weight to a wheelchair, which also was donated. "I need to hold on tight, or I'll fall over," he said. "My balance is slowly getting better."
He has no movement and no feeling from the chest down. Before he was discharged from Albany Medical Center Hospital, surgery was ruled out because of the bullet's location. "If I try to remove it, you would die," the doctor told him.
West's friends started a recovery account for Williams on Go Fund Me, an online crowdfunding site. It was intended to pay for medications and supplies not covered by Medicaid, and monthly living expenses since West exhausted her modest savings. A total of $3,140 was donated. The goal was $25,000. The last donation was sent three weeks ago.
"I'm very grateful for the donations, but I spent all the money," West said. "We have a lot of expenses and it goes very fast."