Court docs: Fatal Cortland stabbing followed heated altercation

CORTLAND, N.Y. — The suspect in a fatal stabbing that occurred on Main Street early Wednesday morning claims that he acted in self-defense, according to court documents provided by Cortland City Court.

Andrew J. Pilcher, 32, of Cortland, was arrested Wednesday following a heated argument that turned violent outside his downtown apartment.

Pilcher faces felony charges of first-degree manslaughter and tampering with physical evidence, along with a misdemeanor charge of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, in connection with the incident.

Pilcher

The victim, 28-year-old Damian S. Grant, of Cortland, sustained a single stab wound to his torso during the altercation. He was later pronounced dead at Cortland Regional Medical Center.

Details from court documents

Shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday, Pilcher was walking home after a night of drinking with his girlfriend and two friends to his apartment on Main Street when he was approached by a shirtless Grant, who was accompanied by his girlfriend. Grant asked Pilcher for a cigarette, and Pilcher gave Grant a few drags of his lit cigarette. Grant refused to give it back, and Pilcher and Grant began arguing back and forth. Grant eventually relented and returned the cigarette, though the pair continued arguing.

"I keep saying it was an altercation, but they weren't going at it. They were just verbally jawing back and forth," Grant's girlfriend told investigators. "None of them were acting aggressively. No one was saying threatening things or anything like that. Just stupid stuff, but not a full blown argument or anything."

When Grant walked away from the ordeal, however, his girlfriend noticed a hole in his chest.

"It was an open wound in his chest. It was obvious to me that Damian was stabbed," she said. Grant walked away from the alleyway and fell to the ground, and an ambulance arrived shortly thereafter.

Pilcher has no criminal record, according to local court records. On June 5, 2018, Grant was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, endangering the welfare of a child, menacing, and harassment after he pulled out a knife and chased another man out of a residence in front of a 12-year-old, according to a press release from the Cortland County Sheriff's Office that was distributed to local media following his arrest.

A felony complaint filed by Sgt. Daniel Johnson alleges that Pilcher used a folding style knife to "stab the torso of Damian S. Grant, one time, resulting in death." That contradicts Pilcher's claim that he used a house key to defend himself against Grant.

Pilcher also told police that Grant acted "excessively aggressive" toward him.

"He swung at me, and hit me on the head," Pilcher's statement read.

An EMT officer who responded to the scene stated that he noticed "an approximate 2 1/2 centimeter vertical laceration...that appeared to be angling up towards the sternum. The laceration was smooth on both sides and was in an elongated diamond shape."

An autopsy is being performed on Grant's body at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton. The results, which will purportedly show how exactly Grant died, have not yet been released.

"This whole thing is crazy. This should not have happened," Grant's girlfriend said in her police statement. "It was over a stupid cigarette that Damian gave back to the girl. It doesn't make sense."