October 27, 2021

All-night standoff ends in arrest; shot cop stable

Cortland shooting started with a call for a domestic disturbance

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Police and special response team specialists cluster Friday night outside a building on Elm Street in Cortland, where a man held off police after a police officer had been shot.

A 12-hour standoff ended peacefully about 7:50 a.m. today when the man suspected of shooting and wounding a Cortland city police officer walked out of his house at 12 Elm St. with his hands up, said Lt. Michael Strangeway, a city police spokesman.

Suspect Zachary Clark, 26, was taken to the city police station nearby for processing.

While the standoff involving dozens of police officers, two armored police vehicles had come to an end, the scene remained hazardous because of a large gas leak in Clark’s house, Strangeway said.

“We’re not sure if it is something he did or if it was from countermeasures,” Strangeway said.

Two armored vehicles pumped a chemical irritant into the house, beginning about 2 a.m., he said.

Clark was charged with four felonies:

— First-degree assault.
— Aggravated assault on a police or peace officer.
— First-degree reckless endangerment.
— Menacing a police or peace officer.

He was also charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and prohibited use of weapons, misdemeanors.

Church Street and Clinton Avenue, which were closed during the standoff, were being reopened but Elm Street between Church and Greenbush streets will remain closed while the state police forensic unit investigates the crime scene.

The Cortland police officer arriving at 12 Elm St. to check on a domestic disturbance complaint Friday night was shot three times in the legs by a man on the porch, later identified as Clark, and returned fire, city Police Chief F. Michael Catalano said late Friday.

The officer arrived at the scene and met with gunfire from a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle, Lt. Michael Strangeway said. Clark struck the officer at least three time. The officer retreated behind his patrol vehicle and applying a tourniquet to his leg.

“As our officer exited the vehicle, he was met by gunfire from the front porch,” Catalano said, adding that patrol cars from city, Cortland County Sheriff’s Office and SUNY Cortland University Police quickly arrived and pulled the officer to safety.

A second officer arrived, drew his weapon and began firing back at Clark, Strangeway said, as other arriving police from other agencies pulled the injured officer to safety. Clark was wounded by a single gunshot to his left forearm, was taken to Guthrie Cortland Medical Center and transferred to Upstate University Hospital.

The standoff continued through the night.

The officer, who was not identified, was taken to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, where he was in stable condition, Catalano said. He said the officer’s family had been notified.

The suspect, who had a criminal history, lived in the house with his brother and mother, Catalano said.

The man went into his house after the shooting and would not leave, prompting a standoff that lasted hours and brought two armored police vehicles and a Syracuse police robot to the scene.

“We had a real history with him,” Catalano said, but declined to elaborate.

Elm and Church streets and Clinton Avenue were closed to traffic while dozens of police cars lined Church and Elm streets.

Cortland County District Attorney Patrick Perfetti was also on the scene.

Police packed the scene near Elm and Church streets, where the shooting was reported, Lt. David Guerrera said from the scene.

The initial call was made at 7:59 p.m., said Scott Roman, the county’s director of emergency response and communications.

Spotlights were trained on a house several doors east of the intersection. Traffic was closed on Clinton Avenue between Church and Greenbush streets.

City police, Homer police, state police, Cortland County sheriff’s officers, Itha police and the U.S. Marshall’s Service were all on the scene. So were Syracuse police and SUNY Cortland police, TLC Ambulance and the Cortland Fire Department.