November 27, 2021

Charges filed in shooting of city policeman

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.

The Cortland city police officer, responding to a report of an armed man involved in a domestic dispute, was approaching the house at 12 Elm St. Friday night, when the man opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle from the porch, hitting the officer three times in the leg.

The officer took cover behind his marked patrol car and applied a tourniquet to his badly bleeding upper leg as the man continued to fire, shooting holes in the windshield of the police car, police said.

Twelve hours later, Zachary Clark, 26, surrendered to police. 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.

Clark was first taken to Guthrie Cortland Medical Center for a single gunshot wound to his left forearm, then transferred to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse for treatment of the non-life threatening injury.

The officer, who had not yet been identified by police as of this morning, was released from the hospital, Community Oriented Policing Officer Jesse Abbott announced Saturday via Facebook.

As Clark pursued the officer Friday night, a second officer arrived, returning fire from his vehicle and forcing Clark back inside his residence. The second officer and a Cortland County Sheriff’s who also quickly arrived at the house helped the injured officer to a safe area.

A perimeter was established and dozens of police vehicles lined Elm Street and nearby Church Street and Clinton Avenue. Tactical units from Cortland city police, state police and Syracuse police were brought in. Armored vehicles from state police and Syracuse arrived late Friday night, as did a robot from Syracuse police.

But Clark refused repeated demands to come out, police said..

A gas irritant was pumped into the building about 2 a.m. to drive Clark out. He finally walked out with his hands up at 7:50 a.m., nearly 12 hours after the shooting.

“This was truly a coordinated effort by numerous agencies who worked together in a manner that ensured the best possible resolution while safeguarding the community,” according to a news release from Cortland police. “We should all be proud of the work these men and women do everyday, but particularly so, when that work is done under conditions when lives are literally at stake.”

A large natural gas leak occurred in the 12 Elm St. house and a New York State Electric & Gas Corp. was called to stop it, Lt. Michael Strangeway said Saturday morning. He said he was not sure if Clark had caused the leak or it occurred with an armored police vehicle pumped irritant into the house.

Also assisting city police were SUNY police, Homer police, Ithaca police, the U.S. Marshall’s Service, TLC Emergency Medical Services and the Cortland City Fire Department.