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Investigators say suspect in deadly Waterloo shooting has 'extensive criminal history'

Emerson Tohafjian, 48, is accused of shooting three people in Waterloo, according to state police. Two of the victims died from their injuries. (Seneca County Sheriff's Office)

Investigators say a suspect in a shooting that ended with a man and woman dead and a third person injured in Waterloo has an "extensive" criminal past.

At a news conference Thursday New York State Police said Emerson Tohafjian, 48, will be charged for the killings once he's released from a Rochester hospital, where he was taken to be treated for self-inflicted cuts his neck and wrist. A grand jury will then consider additional charges, officials said.

Officials said Waterloo Police first responded to the shooting at 54 Virginia Street in the village at 11:42 p.m. Investigators said a person inside the home had called 911 saying they and two others had been shot and the shooter had taken off. When police arrived, two of the victims had died from apparent gunshot wounds.

RELATED | Two dead, one injured in Waterloo shooting

The third victim, the caller, was taken to a hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds and released.

State police said the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office is conducting autopsies; once that is complete, investigators said they will disclose the names of the victims and their official cause of death.

Tohafjian was identified as the suspect in the hours after the shooting and located at a campground in Phelps, N.Y., in neighboring Ontario County. At about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday authorities formed a perimeter around a tent Tohafjian was in and, after hours of negotiating, he surrendered himself, state police said.

At that point police discovered self-inflicted cuts to Tohafjian's neck and wrist which required immediate medical attention; he was flown to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester for treatment and remains there as of Thursday morning in stable condition, officials said. Once he's released, he will be charged for Tuesday night's killings, state police said.

Tohafjian's recent run-ins with the law


State police said Thursday Tohafjian has "an extensive criminal history" which includes two arrests last month.

RELATED | Suspect in Waterloo homicides arrested twice for domestic violence in June

The first, was on June 3 when Tohafjian was arrested on four misdemeanor charges and had his bail set at $500 cash or $1,000 bond. He posted bail and was released, officials said.

On June 19 Tohafjian was arrested again, this time charged with first-degree rape and several other crimes. Seneca County District Attorney Barry Porsch said a judge set bail at $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond and issued a stay away order of protection for the victim. Two days later, family members posted bail for him. A second order of protection was also issued by Seneca County Family Court after his release, Porsch said.

Tohafjian was due to appear on the June 3 charges to appear on June 27, but didn't show up. At that point, the Porsch said his office requested a bench warrant and an additional $10,000 bail, $20,000 bond be imposed on Tohafjian. A judge refused that request, Porsch said.

Questions that remain


Officials repeatedly declined to disclose Thursday if any of the victims in this investigation had any relationship with the suspect.

When asked if any of the victims of Tuesday's shootings were also a victim in either of the June cases, officials declined to say.

"Because we have a sex crime that's involved with the previous charges, we're not going to make that connection," New York State Police Captain Barry Chase said. When asked if any complaints had been made against Tohafjian following his release on June 21, Chase said, "We're not going to get into that right now."

When questions at Thursday morning's news conference shifted to bail imposed by the judges handling the June cases, Porsch declined say whether or not a judge's rejection of the request to impose additional bail on Tohafjian was frustrating.

"In New York State bail is to ensure that the defendant returns to court. We don't have preventative detention in New York State," Porsch said.

"We all want to put blame on somebody. We have a system of laws in our country, but when it's all said and done the person who pulled the trigger should be held accountable for this. He's the real one to blame here," Chase added when asked if the court system had failed the victims of Tuesday night's shooting.

The investigation into the shooting continues.

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