The New York State Attorney General announced Friday that her office's Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit found insufficient evidence to determine a crime was committed by Lockport Police offices and Niagara County Sheriff's Deputies involved in a call which led to the death of Troy Hodge two years ago. But Attorney General Letitia James says the response to the call raises concerns.
The Attorney General's Office released the results of its investigation in a 72-page report.
Hodge died shortly after an encounter with officers on June 19, 2019. Hodge's mother had called police, reporting her son had been acting erratically. Upon the arrival of Lockport Police Officer Daniel Barrancotta, the first of the officers on the scene, Hodge was outside his mother's house and expressed doubt that Barrancotta truly was a police officer.
He then stated people "were coming after him" and proceeded toward the house to reportedly retrieve a shotgun. Officers on the scene, who stepped in to prevent him from entering, stated they saw Hodge holding a knife. Investigators say Hodge then grabbed Lockport Police Officer Marissa Bonito, put her in a headlock and tried to move the knife toward her head. Bonito and Barrancotta were able to disarm Hodge but struggled to restrain him until additional officers arrived.
Hodge was eventually handcuffed but in short time became unresponsive. Efforts to resuscitate him on the scene, and Hodge was pronounced dead a short while later in a local hospital. The medical examiner listed the cause of death as “sudden death associated with acute cocaine intoxication and prolonged physical altercation.” While the medical examiner noted injuries Hodge sustained as the result of struggles with police, those injuries were determined not to be a factor in his death.
Attorney General James, in a written statement, expressed her condolences to Hodge's family but concluded officers involved in the encounter did not break the law.
"We engaged in an extensive and complete review of the facts in this case and determined that there was not sufficient evidence to prove that a crime had been committed," she said. "However, the actions of some of the officers raised serious concerns and should not go unaddressed."
Her office's report issued the following recommendations: "First, we recommend that the LPD strongly consider abandoning its dispatching operations and allowing the NCSO’s dispatch center to cover all 911 calls in the city of Lockport. Notably, the ambulance was significantly delayed in its arrival at the scene due to communications issues between the LPD and NSCO dispatchers. Second, we recommend that all law enforcement officers, dispatchers, and emergency medical personnel be trained to recognize the constellation of symptoms Mr. Hodge displayed as a potential medical emergency and to respond accordingly. Finally, we recommend that LPD modify its use of force policy. Although we cannot know whether these recommendations could have saved Mr. Hodge’s life if they had been implemented before this incident, they can reduce the likelihood that similar tragedies might occur in the future.”