Thursday, July 16, 2015

Albany County sergeant suspended in Taser case resigns after allegedly leaving voicemail threats

Albany County sheriff's sergeant Vincent P. Igoe escorts a defendant into Judge Thomas Breslin's courtroom Jan. 9, 2003, in Albany, N.Y. (Skip Dickstein/Times Union archive) Photo: SKIP DICKSTEIN / ALBANY TIMES UNION

An Albany County sheriff's sergeant who was facing termination for his controversial use of a Taser on a teenager abruptly resigned this week as the department investigated allegations that he left threatening and racist messages on the voicemail of a Colonie man, according to people familiar with the case.
The sergeant, Vincent P. Igoe Jr., was suspended 11 months ago after a police car video showed him firing a Taser at a Colonie teenager who was kneeling in front of police officers with his hands on his head following a high-speed chase. The department subsequently moved to fire Igoe, 41, who was previously the subject of an internal investigation for his improper use of a Taser.
But it was a fatal shooting near the Albany International Airport five years ago that brought the most intensive scrutiny of Igoe's use of force during his Sheriff's Office career. He was alone and on patrol late at night in March 2010 when he killed an unarmed Mexican immigrant who was walking in the dark along an isolated road. The immigrant, Marcus DeJesus Alvarez, was not accused of wrongdoing.
Igoe's on-duty shooting of Alvarez ended with an Albany County grand jury determining the deputy's decision to shoot the unarmed man was justified. Igoe told investigators that he fired his gun after Alvarez threw a small piece of concrete at him and allegedly ignored his orders to stop moving toward the deputy in the dark. Igoe's patrol car emergency lights were not on at the time, so no video of the incident was captured.
Igoe was armed with a Glock .40-caliber handgun and shot Alvarez twice in the torso from about 15 feet away.
Sheriff's Office records obtained by the Times Union under a series of Freedom of Information Law requests indicate Igoe has used force at least eight times while on duty, including the 2010 fatal shooting and four incidents involving Tasers.
In May 2013, Igoe and another patrol sergeant underwent refresher training after an internal investigation, including review of a police video, showed they used a Taser more than five times -— against departmental policy —on a man they were arresting during a traffic stop. Igoe deployed his Taser four times on the man, while the other sheriff's sergeant used his Taser at least twice. Igoe was also allegedly holding a gun while using the Taser, which is prohibited under the department's policy.
Igoe resigned this week as the county had agreed to suspend his arbitration in the disciplinary case brought by the Sheriff's Office last year, according to county officials. The department was seeking to terminate Igoe for his actions following an August 2014 chase that wended from Colonie into Troy and ended when the teenage driver initially refused orders to get out of his vehicle.
A video taken from a dashboard camera in a police cruiser prompted Sheriff Craig Apple to suspend Igoe and launch an internal investigation into the sergeant's use of force. The video showed Igoe firing his Taser through the smashed back window of the vehicle as the 16-year-old suspect, Kelijah Fink, huddled in a back seat of the car and refused to get out. The first shot missed. Igoe then quickly reloaded his Taser and fired a second time at the teenager after he emerged from the vehicle and was already on his knees with his hands on top of his head.
The stun gun's second shot struck Fink, who became briefly paralyzed by the electrical shock and was quickly handcuffed.
Apple on Wednesday confirmed that Igoe resigned but declined further comment. He referred questions to the county attorney, Thomas Marcelle, who said the Sheriff's Office was negotiating a settlement with Igoe in the Taser disciplinary case when the sergeant resigned.
"I don't know if there was any one factor that attributed to the reaching of the agreement," Marcelle said, declining to elaborate. "He's not on the payroll."

The telephone calls that allegedly triggered Igoe's resignation were initially investigated by the town of Colonie Police Department.
"Another person reported this to us," said Lt.Robert Winn, a spokesman for the police department. "We don't know where Vincent was when he made those (calls). ... The investigation ended rapidly because we couldn't determine jurisdiction and the victim did not want to participate."
Winn said the man who received the messages may have been out of state and did not want to file a complaint at the time it was investigated. However, the information and copies of investigative records were turned over to the Albany County Sheriff's Office, he added.
Winn declined to describe the voice mail messages. But a person familiar with the investigation said Igoe allegedly made racially charged and threatening remarks directed at the man, who is acquainted with a woman Igoe knows. The former sheriff's sergeant also allegedly made references to having "bodies" in his background. It's unclear if that was a reference to Alvarez, the immigrant shot to death by Igoe five years ago.
Winn said the policy of the Colonie Police Department was to notify the sheriff's department about the recent telephone calls.
"Any time we have contact with a law enforcement officer, we always make sure that we let that agency know," Winn said. "They were advised."
Igoe's attorney, Stephen G. DeNigris, last year said he watched the video of the Taser incident and believes his client did nothing wrong. DeNigris, who is a former police officer, said the video "vindicated" Igoe because officers wanted the teenager on his stomach, not his knees. On Wednesday, DeNigris said he was not aware that Igoe resigned and could not immediately reach Igoe to confirm the information.
Bruce C. Bramley, an Albany attorney who represented Igoe in the arbitration on behalf of a Sheriff's Office labor union, could not be reached for comment.

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