ITHACA, N.Y. – With police lights flashing behind him, a felon pulls over his vehicle on a road in Ohio, loaded gun on his lap.

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“I’m gonna shoot this cop. I’m gonna kill this cop right now,” 59-year-old John W. Montgomery allegedly told the woman in the passenger seat. He’d recently been released from prison and was determined not to go back.

Officer David Leighty, though, knew something wasn’t right immediately.

Ithaca Police Officer Dana Haff pauses the YouTube video being played for 16 community members attending day two of the Ithaca Citizens Police Academy.

“If this was me…bells and whistles would be sounding in my head,” he said, as he talked the class through the video.

The driver has his breaks on instead of parking the vehicle. He peaks his head out of the window, looking for the officer. Rather than pulling into a nearly empty parking lot, the driver pulls over directly at an intersection.

Haff pushes play on the video, which is recorded from the police cruiser dashboard camera.

Leighty, likely also noticing something unusual about the stop, turns on a bright light on the vehicle and approaches it from the passenger side.

The woman in the passenger side of the vehicle has her eyes closed shut to avoid seeing the shooting and is pretending to be asleep. She doesn’t see the officer just a foot or so away from her and, because of the bright light, neither does the driver.

About thirty seconds after the stop, Leighty’s body can be seen making a noticeable hop and the officer takes a step backward. He sees the firearm on Montgomery’s lap.

Drawing his own gun, he radios in the situation in to the 911 dispatcher, the driver still unaware that the officer is on the other side of the car.

“PUT YOUR HANDS UP,” the officer shouts.

He demands that the driver do that seven more times before firing the first of eight bullets as Montgomery exits the vehicle, gun in hand and a bullet in the chamber. Montgomery never fires off a round but can be seen trying to raise his gun to the officer.

Montgomery is taken to a hospital where he later died from his injuries. The female passenger was uninjured.

That’s how Ithaca police officers Haff and David Amaro explained the importance of roadside safety and precautions police take when pulling people over or responding to accidents.

Amaro said there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop — all stops are handled as though they could be life threatening to officers and the people involved.

And at the IPD, he said that people in the chain of command, all the way up to Chief John Barber, have a motto: “Find a way to do it better.”

Amaro said they definitely do.

For instance, the department recently gave a presentation to the New York State Department of Criminal Justice about how to better approach a high-risk vehicle with a dangerous suspect inside.

“They loved it and you get a lot of pride for coming up with something like that,” Amaro said.

Police previously approached the vehicle at an angle with the intent to take cover behind their open vehicle doors if the situation got dangerous. The problem? Bullets can fly straight through a vehicle door.

“It’s silly to think that we ever did this kind of thing,” he said.

The new method, which Amaro illustrated, allows officers to approach the scene and essentially create a V-shape with police vehicles, the point of which is the front of the cruisers which faces the suspect’s vehicle. The officers can then take cover behind the engine block of the cruisers, which better protects from gunfire.

“We do reexamine a lot of the things we do,” Amaro said. “When we find things that simply aren’t good enough, right now we have an administration from the top on down that says, ‘This doesn’t work. You know, fix it.’”

For information about traffic safety and what to do while being pulled over, check out the story below:

http://ithacavoice.wpengine.com/2015/03/ithaca-police-officers-talk-investigating-crashes-fatal-otherwise/

Bike patrol meant to connect officers with the community

After the traffic presentation, Officer Brandon Goldsberry talked about his time as a bike patrol officer.

Stretched across his giant biceps are tribal tattoos. On his left calf — which is about the size of a person’s head due to riding 20 to 50 miles per bike shift — is more ink.

But Goldsberry’s passion in policing is the bike patrol unit because it gives him the chance to interact with the public frequently and in a casual way throughout his shift.

“One of the things with me is I like to talk. I like to interact with people. I don’t like the idea or the belief that because I’m a police officer there’s some kind of separation between me and the public,” he said.

And what better way to interact than to talk about the embarrassing inevitability of bike crashes, which he said, always happen to him at the slowest speeds.

He recalled his first major fall on his police bike. It happened on a hot summer day in front of a crowded ice cream shop and by a church. After buying a bike with pedal clips, he momentarily forgot how to unclip his foot from the pedal.

“So here I am now coming up to Seneca Street, cars buzzing, (and I) completely have a melt down, freaking out how to get out of it and the slowest fall *whistles* I go right down…so I’m stuck like a turtle because I can’t get my feet out of the stupid thing,” he said. “I promise you, you have not been embarrassed until you’ve been a police officer in full uniform and you wreck your bike.”

The Iraq war veteran gave the rundown on bikes and the community. To read more about it, check out the story below: 

http://ithacavoice.wpengine.com/2015/03/ithaca-police-officer-iraq-war-veteran-explains-bike-awesome-tool/

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.