Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced that on December 28, 2016, an Orange County grand jury declined to file charges against two City of Middletown police officers who shot a man on July 13, 2016, at 109 Overlook Drive in the City of Middletown. The man, who pointed a pellet gun that appeared to be a firearm at the officers, subsequently died. The grand jury’s finding, known as a “No Bill,” ended the grand jury’s investigation, and ensured that no state criminal charges would be brought against the two police officers who shot the man.
Independently of the grand jury’s investigation, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office investigated the incident, aided by the New York State Police. Under a pending Governor’s Executive Order, incidents where police shoot “unarmed” civilians must be investigated by the New York State Attorney General’s Office. After consultation with the Attorney General’s Office, however, it was determined that the investigation would most appropriately be handled by the District Attorney’s Office, because the deceased appeared to have pointed what looked like a semi-automatic pistol at police officers at the time of the shooting.
Although proceedings before grand juries are secret as a matter of law, the findings of the District Attorney’s Office made from evidence uncovered outside of the grand jury proceeding can be made public. The District Attorney’s investigation revealed:
- On July 13, 2016, at approximately 6:45 p.m., multiple 911 calls were received reporting that a violent domestic dispute involving a weapon was occurring at 109 Overlook Drive. One of the calls reflected that a hostage situation was in progress. The City of Middletown Police Department and Orange County 911 dispatched police officers to the location as a “priority call.”
- Within minutes of the 911 calls, multiple City of Middletown Police Department officers arrived at 109 Overlook Drive. Police officers established a perimeter around the location.
- One of the 911 calls had originated from inside 109 Overlook Drive. The caller was identified as Richard Dinneny. He indicated that he was upset, intoxicated, and armed with a weapon, and that he needed to detox because he was experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Dinneny further indicated that he had recently been arrested and that he was not allowed to be at 109 Overlook Drive, which was his girlfriend’s residence. Dinneny said over the phone that he wanted to die and that he would shoot any police officers that came to the residence. A police officer from the City of Middletown calmly spoke to Dinneny on the phone and attempted to deescalate the situation.
- Four Middletown police officers approached the front door of 109 Overlook Drive.
- Dinneny approached the door leading to the outside of 109 Overlook Drive and the police officers confronted him. Dinneny produced what appeared to be a black handgun in his right hand. Despite repeated requests for Dinneny to drop the weapon, by the officers at the scene and the officer on the phone, he refused to do so. The object in Dinneny’s hand was later determined to be a pellet gun.
- Dinneny raised the pellet gun horizontal to the floor in the direction of the City of Middletown officers situated near the front door. Two City of Middletown officers fired five shots, striking Dinneny three times.
- Immediately after the shooting, police officers secured the scene. As first aid was rendered to Dinneny, a highly intoxicated woman was discovered inside 109 Overlook Drive.
- Dinneny was promptly transported via ambulance to Orange Regional Medical Center, where he subsequently died. Dinneny suffered two perforating gunshot wounds to the right upper chest and right wrist, and a grazing wound to the left waist area. All three wounds where the result of gunshots that the City of Middletown police officers fired.
- After the scene at 109 Overlook Drive was secured, the Orange County Police Shooting Protocol was activated and the District Attorney’s Office became the lead agency investigating the incident, with the crime scene being secured and processed by the New York State Police.
- At the scene, a black pellet pistol was recovered within several feet of Dinneny. It was the same pistol that the City of Middletown officers observed Dinneny raise and point toward them.
- The crime scene revealed numerous pieces of evidence, including five expended shell casings.
- Later, it was determined that two City of Middletown police officers had fired at Dinneny with their duty weapons.
- On July 8, 2016, the City of Middletown Court had issued a valid order of protection, directing that Dinneny stay at least 100 feet away from 109 Overlook Drive. Violation of that order was a criminal offense in the State of New York on July 13, 2016.
- An autopsy performed on Dinneny concluded that he had suffered three gunshot wounds, one each to the chest, wrist, and hip. The autopsy further concluded that the gunshot wound to his chest entered his upper torso and traveled from the front to the back. The wound to Dinneny’s wrist was also determined to have traveled from front to back. Both of those findings show that Dinneny was facing the officers at the time of the shooting.
- A toxicology report further indicated that Dinneny was legally intoxicated at the time of his death.
After reviewing all the attendant facts and circumstances involving the police shooting, including interviews of witnesses and police officers, and a review of the available evidence, it is the conclusion of the District Attorney’s Office that the police officers’ actions in this case were justified under the New York State Penal Law.
“It is always a tragedy when a police officer must use deadly physical force,” said District Attorney Hoovler. “This incident, like many police-involved shootings, could have been resolved with no loss of life, if Mr. Dinneny had simply complied with the lawful commands of the police officers. I thank the City of Middletown Police Department and the New York State Police for their assistance and cooperation in this investigation.”
The investigation was personally handled by District Attorney Hoovler.