Knapp speaks in Cortland County trial against Zachary L. Clark

(City of Cortland police officer Trevor Wenz testifying).

Chad Knapp, the city of Cortland police officer who was shot three times by Zachary L. Clark with a rifle on March 27 of last year, testified on Thursday in the Cortland County courtroom.

Knapp provided his recollection of the night he was shot on Elm Street. He noted parts of the evening came back to him after “blocking most of it” from his memory in the past year.

Roughly before 8 p.m., Knapp received a call over the radio and his computer screen of a brother-on-brother incident at the Elm Street residence, a call Knapp responded to in “less than two minutes,” he said.

Knapp noticed Clark’s half-brother, Bryant Holl, “in the middle of the road” when he arrived at the residence. 

Knapp quickly spoke with Bryant Holl, but Knapp noted “he didn’t have time” for a full explanation of the situation due to being under the impression that Clark’s mother, Petula Holl, was in the house with Clark. But, Petula at the time was in the emergency room getting stitches after her hand was cut open when attempting to grab the rifle out of Clark’s hands.

To Knapp’s surprise, he only saw Clark in the residence, not his mother, as Clark sat at the kitchen table with the rifle.

“If I believed that Clark was the only one in the house, I wouldn’t have gone in,” Knapp said in county court Thursday morning. Knapp noted there was “mass confusion” from dispatch due to another call at the same residence of Clark assaulting his mother. However, Knapp also said dispatch “didn’t say his mom was specifically involved” in the situation.

Once Knapp saw Clark sitting at the kitchen table, Knapp told Clark to sit up and leave the rifle on the table. Knapp mentioned that he repeated this statement “4-to-5 times.”

“Come and get it,” Clark allegedly responded, according to Knapp.

That is when Clark began shooting at Knapp, with the first shot “wisping” past Knapp’s head. Knapp retreated to the enclosed porch attached to the residence, but not before Clark shot Knapp for the first of three bullets that hit him.

Knapp, shooting back and Clark doing the same in the front lawn of the residence, managed to dart out, yelling “shots fired, shots fired.” It was based on the recording of Knapp’s distress call played through the emergency response radio connection Thursday morning.

As Knapp was running, the leg where he was shot jolted forward from a “burning sensation” and fell to the ground, losing and dropping his pistol in the process.

The last two shots, Knapp said, hit him in the middle of the street and when he was “4-to-5 feet” from his patrol vehicle. In the aftermath of getting shot, Knapp realized it wasn’t a good idea “to expose himself” due to risking the safety of residents on Elm Street.

Yelling “I’m hit!” over the radio, Knapp was able to lift himself up and take cover on the other side of his vehicle. Knapp requested backup and an ambulance as well on the radio.

Clark continued shooting his rifle, with multiple shots hitting Knapp’s patrol car.

Knapp attempted to grab his patrol rifle, but fell again from the pain and “blood oozing” from his leg. Feeling woozy and lightheaded, Knapp said he quickly took a rubber strap and tied it around his leg to control the bleeding.

“My boot felt warm, wet and squishy (from the blood),” Knapp said. The boot has become a key piece of evidence in the case.

Local authorities arrived at the scene shortly after. Knapp’s partner, city police officer Trevor Wenz, was the first one to respond.

Wenz said he happened to see Knapp “running in front of his vehicle” before stopping to a screeching halt in front of the residence. Wenz added he started shooting at Clark when he exited his patrol vehicle, but Clark stopped shooting and ran “towards the back of the house.”

Wenz said he then attended to Knapp, while repeatedly saying “officer down!” over the radio.

“(Knapp) was telling me that he was starting to fade,” Wenz said Thursday morning. Wenz helped carry Knapp to the backseat of county sheriff’s deputy Mercedes Slade’s patrol car.

Wenz noted that Knapp “looked pale” and “was not feeling well” when he settled him into Slade’s vehicle. Slade then drove Knapp to the public safety building as they waited for the ambulance.

After Knapp and Slade left the scene, Wenz engaged in the standoff against Clark.

“I felt awful,” Wenz said as he attempted to focus on the situation at the Elm Street residence while wondering about the status of Knapp’s condition. “It was not a good situation to be in.”

Dr. Joan Dolinak, who specializes in surgical critical care at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, said Thursday afternoon that Knapp “looked remarkably well for being shot.”

Dolinak noted Knapp had bullets in his anal cavity, buttocks and right leg.

Dolinak mentioned Knapp “didn’t lose consciousness” throughout his time at the hospital. Knapp was also “walking well,” said Dolinak, which led to her decision to give Knapp an early discharge. The COVID-19 pandemic also played a role in Knapp’s discharge, as Dolinak was worried that Knapp may have had complications with his recovery if he caught the virus.

Knapp was readmitted to the hospital after “some bleeding in the thigh,” but Dolinak said it’s common with the type of surgery Knapp had.

Clark, 27, has been charged with attempted murder in the first degree, attempted murder in the second degree, attempted assault in the first degree, two counts of menacing a police officer or peace officer, and aggravated assault upon a police officer.

He has also been charged with assault in the third degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, prohibited use of a weapon and two counts of menacing misdemeanors in the second degree.

The Cortland Voice will continue to provide daily updates on this case.