Brother of man shot by police in Syracuse: 'Not suicide by cop'

Victor Campione / photo: Andy Wolf

The brother of Benjamin Campione, the mentally ill man shot and killed by police during an armed confrontation at the Regional Transportation Center in Syracuse on May 5th, has spoken out to CNY Central about the incident.

Victor Campione is a former police officer, a former corrections officer and a military veteran. He says his brother's death was not a case of "suicide by cop", as some authorities believe. Victor Campione points out that though his brother was a paranoid schizophrenic, he was not violent nor self-destructive.

"We can never know what was going through his mind... this was an individual who was fearful of something, not wanting to die," Campione said in an exclusive interview with CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.

He added that his brother left no suicide note and his recent actions by boarding up two entrances to his home indicate that he was being self protective, not suicidal.

"When he was on his medication... a very loving very caring individual. In my opinion, what I know of my brother, this wasn't suicide by police by any stretch of the imagination." Campione said.

Campione revealed that the Onondaga County Medical Examiner told him that Benjamin Campione was shot four times: once in the side, twice in the back, and once in the buttocks. Campione says he can not speculate on how those wounds would play into the accounts of the shooting.

As a former police officer, Campione says he can't blame police for their actions, nor second guess what took place. "It's a tug of emotions. My heart goes out to them. I'm glad they got to go home to their families. It's just a lot of emotion but I can't put any blame on them, no, because I don't know all the facts."

Authorities say a Syracuse Police officer and two Onondaga County Sheriff's deputies were answering a complaint about an intoxicated and armed man at the Regional Transportation Center when they confronted Campione in the parking lot of the RTC. Police say Campione pulled a pellet pistol made to look like a .357 magnum revolver from his waistband, crouched into a shooting stance and pointed the gun directly at the Syracuse Police officer. Police then took cover behind their cars and opened fire. Campione died minutes later at Upstate Medical Center.

Syracuse Police spokesman Sgt. Tom Connellan says because the incident is being reviewed by a Grand Jury, he can not comment. Previously, Police Chief Frank Fowler said the officers were justified in their actions. Victor Campione says he's been in touch with the District Attorney's Office.

Campione says he wants people to remember his brother as a "good and loving" man who suffered from a mental illness and needed constant medication. When the investigation is complete, Campione says he will contact state legislators in hopes of changing laws that will better assist paranoid schizophrenics to obtain help.

"Once they go off that medication, they don't see themselves as having a problem. They're already delusional." He added "If we can get a law to bring them in get a psychiatrist to do an evaluation and get him help, then maybe I can save another family from having to go through what I've gone through."