NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office of Special Investigation (OSI) today released its report on the death of 26-year-old Jeffrey McClure of Suffolk County. After conducting an exhaustive investigation, OSI concluded that a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that the actions of the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD) officer who shot Mr. McClure were justified. OSI’s review of the incident included footage from surveillance cameras at the McClures’ house and interviews with involved SCPD officers and other witnesses, as well as additional forms of evidence. In its report, OSI recommends that SCPD accelerate officer training for responding to mental health crises, improve its tactical response procedures, and fully implement its program to outfit officers with body-worn cameras.
On the evening of June 7, 2020, members of SCPD went to a residence in East Northport, Suffolk County after a 911 report about an individual under the influence of alcohol and drugs experiencing a mental health crisis and wielding a pellet gun. When SCPD arrived, they found Mr. McClure in the living room holding what appeared to be a rifle. He pointed it at the officers and threatened to shoot them. The officers told Mr. McClure to put the weapon down, but he ran away from the officers to the basement, where family members said a safe held other firearms. For several minutes officers pursued Mr. McClure through the house and backyard. Two officers were looking for Mr. McClure in the backyard when he appeared on the roof of the house, pointed the rifle at the officers, and threatened to kill them. One of the officers fired and struck Mr. McClure in the neck and hip. SCPD called for medical attention for Mr. McClure, at which point an EMT with the East Northport Fire Department pronounced him dead. When officers recovered the rifle from the roof, it was found to be an air rifle, not a firearm.
Under New York’s justification law, a person may use deadly physical force to defend against the imminent use of deadly physical force by another. When the defense of justification is raised at trial, a prosecutor has the burden to disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence in this investigation indicates that the officer used deadly physical force because he reasonably believed Mr. McClure was about to use deadly physical force against him and another officer. The SCPD officer fired at Mr. McClure after Mr. McClure pointed what appeared to be a rifle at the officers and threatened to kill them. Based on the law and the evidence, OSI determined that criminal charges could not be pursued against the officer.
OSI’s report includes recommendations to SCPD so it will be better prepared to handle such situations in the future. After Mr. McClure’s death, SCPD created the Behavioral Health Section and a 911 Mental Health Call Diversion Program. OSI recommends SCPD enhance these efforts with officer training for mental health response. OSI also recommends SCPD improve its emergency response training and procedures to implement a plan when there are multiple officers responding. Finally, OSI urges SCPD to expedite its rollout of body-worn cameras to all officers, detectives, and supervisors as soon as practicable.
“My office remains committed to executing complete, fair, and transparent investigations of each and every case. Following a thorough review of the facts and evidence, OSI determined criminal charges could not be pursued in this case,” said Attorney General James. “That said, my heart aches for all who held Mr. McClure dear as they continue to cope with the tragic loss of a loved one, and I offer Mr. McClure’s family and friends my sincere condolences.”