Attorney General's Special Investigations And Prosecutions Unit Releases Report On The Death Of John Havener

News from the New York Attorney General's Office 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 24, 2018

Attorney General's Office Press Office / 212-416-8060
nyag.pressoffice@ag.ny.gov 

ATTORNEY GENERAL’S SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS AND PROSECUTIONS UNIT RELEASES REPORT ON THE DEATH OF JOHN HAVENER

Today, New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit (SIPU) released a comprehensive report on its investigation into the January 2018 death of John Havener in the City of Oneida.

As detailed in the report, on January 22, 2018, John Havener drove a car off the road in the City of Oneida while under the influence of narcotic drugs. After exiting the vehicle, he entered a roadway speaking incoherently and acting erratically. Two responding officers from the Oneida Police Department (OPD) were unable to persuade Mr. Havener to leave the roadway and attempts to subdue him by hand, taser and pepper spray were unsuccessful and met with steady resistance. A third officer from the Canastota Police Department (CPD) arrived at the scene and deployed his taser in dart-probe mode, allowing the three officers to take Mr. Havener to the ground and handcuff him with the assistance of other law enforcement officers, arriving on scene. Mr. Havener became unresponsive while in custody, and efforts by law enforcement and medical personnel to revive him were unsuccessful. The Onondaga County Medical Examiner found that Mr. Havener’s death was accidental and caused by multiple drug toxicity; he did not ascribe Mr. Havener’s death to the use of force by law enforcement.

According to the report, SIPU determined that the officers’ use of force in attempting to arrest Mr. Havener was justified under the New York State Penal Law. New York law permits a police officer to use reasonable force when that officer reasonably believes that such force is necessary to effect an arrest. Consistent with state law and OPD and CPD policies, the evidence established that the officers appropriately used escalating force techniques that the officers reasonably believed was necessary in order to arrest Mr. Havener.

The New York State Police (NYSP), rather than the OPD or CPD, performed the primary investigation into this matter and the SIPU’s investigation included review of the NYSP’s report as well as statements by civilian witnesses and the OPD and CPD officers who responded at the scene; 911 dispatch audio recordings; video evidence secured from various cameras capturing different portions of the incident; the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s report; and download reports from the tasers used during the incident.

“We send our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Havener, whose death was a tragedy,” said Attorney General Underwood. “We undertook a comprehensive investigation into the incident, part of our commitment to providing the public with exhaustive and transparent accounting of all cases we investigate under the executive order.”

Click here to read the full report.

The report was produced as part of the Attorney General’s role as the state’s special prosecutor. In July 2015, the Governor signed Executive Order No. 147, appointing the Attorney General to that role to oversee investigations into incidents where a law enforcement officer causes the death of an unarmed civilian, or where there is a significant question as to whether the civilian was armed and dangerous. In cases in which it’s determined that charges are not justified, the Attorney General’s office releases a comprehensive report that details the findings of its investigation, as part of its commitment to transparency.

The Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit is led by Bureau Chief Wanda Perez-Maldonado.