Shooting By Police Legally Justified

By Candace Chapman

July 22, 2010 Updated Jan 14, 2008 at 7:27 PM EDT

Legally Justified.

That's the conclusion of an investigation of the shooting death of Peter Sablich by police in Binghamton.

The Broome County District Attorney detailed his findings in a report issued two years later.

January 3, 2006 three police officers shot and killed 56 year old Peter Sablich on Main Street.

District Attorney Gerald Mollen concluded it was a terrible tragedy that may not have been preventable.

In his report, Mollen said Sablich suffered from significant mental illness and was taking antipsychotic medication.

Officers were called to his apartment on Crandall Street when Sablich started a fire in his kitchen, and front porch.

Sablich ignored police and grabbed a knife when an officer attempted to grab him.

Pepper spray did not subdue him.

When he came out of his apartment, 6 officers established a perimeter around him as he walked to Main Street.

A bean bag shotgun failed to stop him.

Sablich occassionally lunged at police with the knife.

Officer David Bidwell slipped while trying to back away.

Bidwell and two other officers, John Chapman and Charles Harder had their pistols drawn.

Believing Sablich was about to stab Bidwell, they fired.

4 shots struck and killed Sablich.

The District Attorney says a surveillance camera at Horizons Federal Credit Union captured still images, of Sablich raising his hand with a knife, lunging towards Bidwell, and the first shots being fired.

This is video of Mollen with the police chief and mayor as they explained the situation two years ago.

Monday, he writes "The officers had a reasonable belief that Sablich was about to use deadly physical force against Officer Bidwell and that the use of deadly force against Sablich was both justified and necessary."

Mollen points out that Binghamton police now have a Taser, which could give them another option when dealing with mentally ill or emotionally disturbed people.

He is also troubled by the what he says is a dramatic increase in police interaction with the mentally ill.

Broome County does have a mobile crisis team, but Mollen writes "Since the confrontation with Peter Sablich developed so quickly on a public street, even a mental health mobile crisis team available 24 hours a day to respond to an ongoing street situation may have been unable to help in this situation."

Spitzer announced his recommendations of a property tax cap during his State of the State address last week.

The commission will identify unfunded state mandates to cut, which Spitzer says drives up property taxes.

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