ITHACA, N.Y. — After less than three hours of deliberation Wednesday, a jury found an Enfield man guilty of pointing a rifle at a Tompkins County Sheriff’s deputy earlier this year.
The day-long trial lasted throughout Tuesday before Kenneth Benjamin,38, was convicted of menacing a police officer, second-degree menacing, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and endangering the welfare of a child.
The primary witness in the case was Deputy Makenzi Alling, 26, who has been with the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department for three years after previously serving as an officer in Schuyler County.
Alling said that on Feb. 7, she and two other officers responded around 3:38 p.m. to a home on Trumbulls Corners Road for an emergency removal of a young child. The child’s father had obtained a Tompkins County court order to immediately get custody of his son, citing multiple concerns.
The father was also at the residence during the incident and said he’d requested that police come along while he got his child just in case anything went wrong.
Alling said she remained in the driveway with the father while two other officers drove their vehicles behind the large, multi-unit residence. The child’s mother came out of the home, and the father gave her the court paperwork about the child. When she told her other children why the police were at the home, her relative, Benjamin, ran outside and attempted to punch the father but missed.
“He slipped and fell on the ice that was covering the driveway,” Alling said, adding that she used her radio to call for backup around that time because the situation was beginning to get out of control.
“He ran to the passenger side of the Honda (in the driveway),” Alling said and she started to follow him. “At the time, I didn’t know that he was opening the passenger door and then reaching in to get a rifle.”
She was about three-to-five feet away from Benjamin when he whipped out a rifle and pointed it at her while the father was right behind her. Alling tried to pull out her own gun but cut her thumb on the hood of her duty weapon. Benjamin then ran back into the home, and Alling chased after him, pulling out her taser instead of her glock because several children where nearby, including a young teen in the doorway of the home.
Alling said she pointed the taser at Benjamin, who had placed the gun in a corner, and demanded he put it in a nearby closet. The other officers arrived shortly afterward and took Benjamin into custody.
As Alling testified about the gun being point directly at her lower torso, she became visibly uncomfortable, shifting around in her chair. After she left the scene, she said she called two family members to tell them what happened.
“It was a stressful moment, one of the most stressful moments of my career,” she said.
The father gave a similar account under oath, though the details varied slightly, something common in most cases.
“I thought I was going to get shot and I thought he (Benjamin) was definitely going to get shot (by an officer),” the father said.
However, witnesses for the defense stated that Benjamin never pointed the gun at the officer.
The mother said on the stand that Benjamin removed the gun because he planned to leave the house and didn’t want to drive with the gun in the vehicle. She said Benjamin pointed the gun upward and never at the officer. A young teen at the home also testified that Benjamin didn’t point the gun at the officer, saying he pointed it toward the ground.
Defense attorney Jeff Walker cross-examined Investigator Jody Coombs during the trial, and the man testified that while the black powder rifle works, it was not operable at the time of the incident because it didn’t have primer.
Assistant District Attorney Eliza Filipowski, however, said during closing arguments that it doesn’t matter if the gun is operational. She said Benjamin placed or attempted to place a person in reasonable fear of his or her life and displaying the weapon was enough to do that.
Benjamin was taken into custody and is in custody at the Tompkins County Jail without bail or bond. He will be sentenced at a later date.
Note: The child’s parents were not named in this article to protect the child’s identity.