Ithaca police shooting victim, officer named

The Tompkins County District Attorney and members of area law enforcement agencies held a news conference Wednesday morning to discuss the details of an incident Tuesday evening where an Ithaca man was shot and killed by an on-duty police officer.

Mayor Carolyn Peterson began the news conference by saying, "Last night was a tragic one in our community in so many ways."

District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson led the news conference, flanked by officials from various police agencies in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Wilkinson said that at approximately 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday members of the New York State Police, Ithaca Police Department, Tompkins County Sheriff's Department, and Dryden Police Department attempted to execute a search warrant on Sean Greenwood, whose last known address was Third Street in Ithaca. Wilkinson said that officers had received information that there was going to be a drug transaction and that Greenwood was the subject of a narcotics investigation.

Wilkinson says that officers approached Greenwood in the parking lot of Pete's Grocery on West Buffalo Street in Ithaca. Greenwood was sitting in a green van which was parked in front of the store. When officers attempted to execute their search warrant, police say Greenwood tried to flee in the van. In his effort to escape, police say Greenwood struck an unnamed Dryden Police officer with the vehicle and knocked him to the ground. Other officers then ordered Greenwood to stop, as the front of the vehicle appeared to have run over the downed officer.

"Members in the arrest team were in clearly marked in police gear with 'Police' written all over, badges on display, screaming 'Police,'" said District Attorney Wilkinson.

After police say they made attempts for forcibly remove Greenwood from his van, including employing a Taser, Ithaca Police Sgt. Brian Bangs repeatedly fired his police pistol at Greenwood, striking him. The van then came to a stop and the downed officer was extricated.

Wilkinson says that police then gave Greenwood first aid at the scene. He was taken to a local hospital where he died of his wounds. Wilkinson also says that the downed officer received medical treatment and was later released.

Wilkinson says that her office is investigating the shooting to determine if lethal force was necessary to stop Greenwood. She says that "The use of lethal force by police officers is strictly governed by state law," and the investigation could take a couple of months to complete.

Wilkinson said, "There is no doubt lethal force was used, it will be my job to find out if it was justified."

Wilkinson says that there are surveillance cameras in front of Pete's and nearby buildings, and investigators will be utilizing that video to help determine exactly what happened. She also said that it will be up to a grand jury to decide if the shooting was not justified.

When asked why the incident took place in such a public location, Wilkinson said that "Police don't always get to pick where a suspect decides to engage in the activity which is the subject of the investigation."

Wilkinson also mentioned that there were many officers on the scene because this particular narcotics investigation was being worked by a multi-agency task force. "We do a lot of interagency work in Tompkins County - makes for good investigations and good results," she said.

Wilkinson says that Greenwood was 29 years old and was expecting a baby. She described the incident as a tragedy saying, "I hope and have some confidence that it doesn't have to be a tragedy that will divide us."

Sgt. Bangs joined the Ithaca Police Department in 1999. He is on administrative leave while the investigation is underway.

Officials ask that if anyone has any information on they case, they should call the State Police barracks in Ithaca at 607-347-4440.

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