Danby, N.Y. — Someone recently asked Sheriff Ken Lansing why his agency had a large response to a standoff in Danby last week if the suspect fired “only” one shot at his deputies.
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That question struck him as bizarre and illogical. Lansing recounted his reaction to it in an interview with The Voice on Wednesday: “It only takes one bullet to kill us, okay?”
Sheriff Lansing said he is aware that some have questioned his department’s handling of the barricade, after which David Cady, 36, was found dead in his Hornbrook Road home.
But Lansing rebuffed each criticism one-by-one and said his officers performed superbly under exceptionally trying circumstances.
“Our people could have taken this and used deadly physical force,” Lansing said of Cady’s firing on police. “The constraint shown by our men and women — I’m so proud of them. Other people from other agencies said the same thing: ‘We can’t believe how well this was done.’”
Lansing, the incident commander during the standoff, relayed several principal points.
Here’s what we learned from our interview with the sheriff:
1 — Why hundreds of officers, armored vehicles were involved
Some people, including David Cady’s wife, have asked why upwards of 150 police officers from over a dozen law enforcement agencies needed to be involved in the investigation. They note that Cady was wanted on a DWI warrant.
But Sheriff Lansing said there were many reasons why an extensive response was necessary.
“There’s never too many” officers, Lansing said. “It may appear that way but … you’re talking about something that you don’t know how it’s going to go, and you’re looking to do it in a safe manner. We were fortunate to get the help that we needed.”
Here’s why Lansing believes the response was justified:
a) The worst case scenario is letting an armed man who fired at law enforcement escape the vicinity. Police had to “contain” the scene, Lansing said.
Lansing added that there were about 40 officers on scene at any given time, but 150 people were never at the scene at once;
b) Because of the frigid weather, it was necessary to have stationed armored vehicles outside the house to “assure officers some kind of warmth”;
c) Normal patrol cars don’t offer protection from gunfire, so armored vehicles had to be brought in to make sure law enforcement personnel weren’t shot, according to Sheriff Lansing.
Lansing notes that the three patrol cars first to the scene remained there for the duration of the incident. “We couldn’t go get them,” he says, because of the risk of gun violence.
2 — Why damage to house made sense
Another question has emerged after a video surfaced of the house in the aftermath of the standoff: Why was the home badly damaged?
Like the question about “only” one gunshot, Sheriff Lansing says he’s been perplexed when hearing this complaint.
“Property can be replaced …. We did everything to do this in a manner that was not life-threatening and was not using physical force,” he says.
The main source of damage appears to have been done by a device called a “Rook,” a kind of Bobcat used similarly by construction crews. But this tool — lent to the sheriff’s office by the Pennsylvania State Police — allowed law enforcement to learn more about the suspect without putting themselves at danger.
“This is a totally armored vehicle, therefore ensuring the safety of any operator,” Lansing said. “It gives us the ability to see with cameras by poking a hole through a foundation.”
Lansing said the “Rook” has been used successfully in prior cases to convince barricaded subjects to give up and that their fight is lost. Clearly, that didn’t work here — but there was reason to believe it could ensure both the lives of law enforcement and the suspect. That’s more important than physical damage to the house, the sheriff said.
“The whole idea is that you can’t allow them to dictate to you what’s going on,” Lansing says of the barricaded suspect. “You have to make them uncomfortable … and make them realize that this is fruitless; that what they’re doing is unnecessary.”
Lansing didn’t deny the claim of David Cady’s wife that hundreds of tear gas canisters were thrown into the house.
Lansing also admitted there may have been some leftover garbage at the house. He did say that the DPW was called to clean the surroundings and said that he personally picked up some garbage.
“On the last day there were probably still some remnants of what we had there, but we sent deputies to clean that up on Friday or Saturday,” Lansing said. “We did have to feed everybody and keep them warm.”
3 — The restraint shown by law enforcement
When police first arrived at the scene of Cady’s house, they approached the front door and spoke with his wife. They asked the wife to get her husband outside. Then sheriff’s deputies began walking back to their patrol cars.
That’s when the shot rang out. At that point, law enforcement was authorized to use lethal force, but chose not to, according to Sheriff Lansing.
“Stop and think about that for a moment. Our people are fired at, and they still have the restraint not to use fire,” he said.
“We did not want to use deadly physical force; we wanted to deal with this in a safe, peaceful manner.”