A city police officer is recovering from three gunshot wounds to his back and legs after a dispute between two brothers escalated into a shooting Friday night and an almost 12-hour armed standoff with police, reports the Cortland Police Department.
“He’s doing well,” said Lt. Michael Strangeway of the injured officer. “He’s in stable condition.”
The officer, whose name has not yet been released by the department, was taken to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse for treatment.
Video posted to the City of Cortland Office of Community Policing’s Facebook page depicts the officer walking out of the hospital to the applause and celebratory lights of other police officers and emergency services personnel. He was escorted by an uniformed Cortland Police officer and a nurse, but moved freely on his own, despite only wearing socks on his feet. An early picture shows the officers giving a thumb's up and bears the caption, "Feeling better today. Thanks everyone for the well wishes."
The shooter, Zachary L. Clark, age 26, of 12 Elm St., suffered a gunshot wound to his left forearm when city police officers returned his fire, according to the department. Clark was taken to Guthrie Cortland Medical Center, but was quickly sent to Upstate University Hospital where he is being treated for his non-life-threatening injury, Strangeway stated.
The incident that erupted at about 8 p.m. at the home Clark shares with his mother and brother stemmed from a family argument earlier in the evening, Strangeway said in an interview about noon today.
At about 8 p.m., the argument between Clark and his brother intensified, and the brother called 911 stating he was threatened with a weapon during the argument, according to the department.
The injured officer was the first to arrive on the scene, according to a police news release. After the officer spoke with the brother outside, he approached Clark’s residence to speak with Clark, police said.
“The officer was met, almost immediately, with gunfire,” Strangeway stated in the release. “Clark fired numerous rounds at the uniformed City officer, striking him at least three times in his lower extremities.”
Firing a 0.22 caliber semi-automatic rifle, Clark pursued the officer off the porch and continued to shoot at him as he took cover behind his patrol vehicle, the release notes.
“Bullet holes in the windshield of the officer's patrol car showed Clark's intent to inflict further injury upon the officer,” Strangeway said.
While the injured officer applied a tourniquet to his badly bleeding upper leg and sheltered from Clark’s fire, a second officer arrived and began returning fire from his patrol vehicle, the release notes.
“The officer's gunfire forced Clark back into his residence,” Strangeway stated. A Sheriff’s deputy arrived and aided the second city officer in evacuating the injured officer to safety, while other police officers formed a perimeter around Clark’s 12 Elm St. apartment, the release notes.
The injured officer was shot once in the buttocks, once in the back of the thigh and a third bullet grazed his buttocks, Strangeway said in the interview.
A city police negotiator — Detective Sgt. Dan Johnson, who successfully negotiated the release of the hostage in the May 2019 armed standoff at the Hampton Inn on River Street — attempted to contact Clark, but he refused to speak, according to police.
“He wouldn’t engage in dialogue with our negotiator,” Strangeway said. The department also issued repeated orders to exit the Elm Street home, which Clark ignored, according to the release.
As the standoff stretched on through the night, city and county police officers were joined by the SUNY Cortland University Police Department, the Homer Police Department, state police, the Syracuse Police Department, the Ithaca Police Department and the U.S. Marshal’s service, the release notes. Together, the officers used various tactics to try to make Clark give up and come out, including using chemical irritants, according to city police.
“They assaulted the house with chemical munitions and an armored car in an effort to force him out,” Strangeway said this afternoon.
A natural gas leak began inside the apartment while Clark continued his standoff with police, Strangeway said. The cause of the leak is not certain, he added.
Clark surrendered to police at 7:50 this morning.
Four felonies are being levied against Clark: First-degree assault, aggravated assault upon a police officer or peace officer, first-degree reckless endangerment and menacing a police officer or peace officer. He will also face charges of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and prohibited use of weapons, misdemeanors.
“This was truly a coordinated effort by numerous agencies who worked together in a manner that ensured the best possible resolution while safeguarding the community,” Strangeway stated. In addition to the police backup, the TLC Emergency Medical Services and the Cortland Fire Department provided “critical” support. “We should all be proud of the work these men and women do everyday, but particularly so, when that work is done under conditions where lives are literally at stake.”