Two police officers who fatally shot a mentally ill, intoxicated man allegedly menacing them with a knife were cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury in Orange County.
On Thursday, March 19, the now-deceased man's mother, Beverly Parker, called the City of Port Jervis Police Department, saying that her son was “sitting here with a knife in his hand,” and was a “psych patient” who was “off his medication," according to Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler.
Within five minutes, police said, four uniformed officers and one detective arrived at the home on Railroad Avenue in Port Jervis.
The caller met them at the door, and directed their attention to her son, 47-year-old Charles Parker Jr., who was allegedly pressing a foot-long kitchen knife against his neck.
In a conversation with officers urging him to drop the knife, Parker allegedly told officers that "if [they] weren't going to do it, [he would]," "they only way [they could] help [him] is if [they were] going to shoot [him]," that "[they were] going to have to draw [their] gun[s]," and that he would "make [them] shoot [him]."
Parker allegedly then retreated further into the house and out of the officers' line of sight, only to reappear at the doorway of the house, holding the knife high above his head aimed at officers. A civilian witness, according to the jury investigation, overheard the officers imploring Parker to drop the knife multiple times.
The witness testified, according to the press release issued by Hoovler, that he first heard an officer say “Charles put the knife down, we can do this civilly,” then heard officers shouting, “put the knife down" and "drop the knife.”
Parker then lunged at police with the knife, according to the report. Officer Jesse Clune shot Parker three times in the torso, according to an autopsy, and Police Officer Andrew Haniuk shot him once in the left arm.
After Parker fell to the ground, the report said, police first kicked away the knife from his hand. Then, they administered CPR and transported him to Bon Secours Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
According to a toxicology report, Parker had ingested two antidepressant medications and had a blood alcohol content of .205.
Two days prior to the incident, police said, Parker had sent text messages to family members, writing “I love you, forgive everything I done,” and that he would see them in heaven.
An Orange County grand jury cleared the two officers of wrongdoing on Wednesday, Dec. 2.
“Although it is clear that these officers were legally justified in using deadly physical force to avoid being attacked with a knife, it is always a tragedy when police officers cause the death of someone they were trying to aid, and never more so than when the deceased was suffering from mental illness and associated issues,” said Hoovler. “Incidents like this are deeply troubling to law enforcement agencies, municipalities, mental health providers and the entire community."
According to his obituary, Parker is survived by two children, both parents, four siblings, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
“Charlie touched so many lives and never knew it, some of us never realized it either, until now. Charlie was a caring, gentle, hardworking, father, son, and brother. He was trusting and selfless. He stood in the background but was the first to help if you needed him," said the family in a statement. "Sometimes he thought he was invincible and now we wish he was right. Charlie was loved more then words could say."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.