The state attorney general’s office has decided not to charge a Suffolk police officer who shot and killed an East Northport man who was aiming a pellet gun.
Attorney General Letitia James’ Office of Special Investigations released its report on the death of 26-year-old Jeffrey McClure, which concluded that a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that the actions of the Suffolk County Police Department officer who shot McClure were justified.
The review included footage from surveillance cameras at the McClures’ house and interviews with involved SCPD officers and other witnesses, as well as additional forms of evidence. In its report, OSI recommends that SCPD accelerate officer training for responding to mental health crises, improve its tactical response procedures, and fully implement its program to outfit officers with body-worn cameras.
On June 7, 2020, police officers went to a the McClure home in East Northport after a 911 report about an individual under the influence of alcohol and drugs experiencing a mental health crisis and wielding a pellet gun. When SCPD arrived, they found McClure in the living room, holding what appeared to be a rifle. He pointed it at the officers and threatened to shoot them. The officers told McClure to put the weapon down, but he ran away from the officers to the basement, where family members said a safe held other firearms. For several minutes officers pursued McClure through the house and backyard. Two officers were looking for McClure in the backyard when he appeared on the roof of the house, pointed the rifle at the officers, and threatened to kill them. One of the officers fired and struck McClure in the neck and hip. SCPD called for medical attention for Mr. McClure, at which point an EMT with the East Northport Fire Department pronounced him dead. When officers recovered the rifle from the roof, it was found to be an air rifle, not a firearm.
Under New York’s justification law, a person may use deadly physical force to defend against the imminent use of deadly physical force by another. When the defense of justification is raised at trial, a prosecutor has the burden to disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence in this investigation indicates that the officer used deadly physical force because he reasonably believed McClure was about to use deadly physical force against him and another officer.