Attorney General James' Office of Special Investigation Releases Report on Death of Paul Weeden
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office of Special Investigation (OSI) today released its report on the death of Paul Weeden in the Village of Walton, Delaware County. Following a thorough investigation, including review of 911 calls, radio transmissions, body-worn camera (BWC) footage, evidence from the scene, and photographs, OSI concluded that a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that the officer who shot Mr. Weeden was justified. In the report released today, OSI recommends that the Village of Walton Police Department (WPD) equip all police officers with body-worn cameras.
In the middle of the night on October 4, 2021, Mr. Weeden called 911 and said he was going to hurt himself and needed a police officer sent to 14 Griswold Street in the Village of Walton. A WPD officer responded to the call. He recognized the address, as he had been to Mr. Weeden’s residence before, and requested backup, because he knew Mr. Weeden kept guns in his house. A deputy with the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) was a few miles away and went to meet the WPD officer at Mr. Weeden’s residence.
When the WPD officer arrived at the address, Mr. Weeden called to him to come inside. Mr. Weeden was lying on a couch with a blanket covering his body and asked the officer to come closer. The officer asked Mr. Weeden to take his hands out from under the blanket, at which point he observed Mr. Weeden was holding a gun in his right hand. The officer retreated back out the front door of the residence, urging Mr. Weeden to drop the weapon.
Mr. Weeden then quickly moved to the front door with his gun pointed at the officer, and the officer fired his service weapon. Mr. Weeden fell, but then raised the hand holding the gun, and the officer fired again. Mr. Weeden was pronounced dead at the scene. Officers recovered a gun at the scene, which later examination found was a pellet gun, though there were not any markings on the gun that distinguished it from a firearm.
Under New York’s justification law, a person may use deadly physical force to defend against the imminent use of deadly physical force by another. To convict a person of a crime when the defense of justification is raised at trial, the prosecution must disprove justification beyond a reasonable doubt.
In this case, evidence indicates that the police officer fired at Mr. Weeden because he reasonably believed Mr. Weeden was going to shoot him. Under these circumstances, given the law and the evidence, a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer who fired was justified, and OSI determined that criminal charges could not be pursued against the officer.
Though the firing officer was not equipped with a BWC, OSI corroborated his account of the incident with footage from the DCSO deputy’s BWC. OSI recommends WPD equip all of its officers with BWCs as soon as possible.