December 6, 2021

Many police-related stories filled the news in 2020

Shootings, protests, ODs

Cortland Standard/file photo

Protesters honor the memory of George Floyd at a demonstration June 1 in Courthouse Park in Cortland. Floyd died May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police. The death sparked weeks of protests and action around the nation — and in Cortland County.

A police officer was shot, as was a man at a party in Cortland.

Protests of police abuse across the nation came home to roost in Cortland County, as did a response supporting police.

Overdoses increased as a new drug made its way to the community’s streets, and a man was convicted of raping and holding a woman prisoner over several days.

Here are some of the biggest police-related stories of 2020.

DISTURBANCE RESULTS IN STANDOFF

What started as a domestic disturbance March 27 saw a Cortland police officer shot and a 12-hour standoff that extended into the next morning.

Zachary L. Clark, 27, of 12 Elm St., Cortland was arraigned Sep. 9 and accused of attempted first-degree murder; attempted second-degree murder; attempted first-degree assault; two counts of menacing a police officer or peace officer; aggravated assault upon a police officer, felonies.

He was also accused of assault, and criminal possession of weapons.

Clark had been drinking and got into a violent dispute with relatives around 7:30 p.m. March 27, court documents show. Bryant Holl, Clark’s brother, would not let Clark borrow his car.

When Cortland police Officer Chad Knapp responded, he was shot at, leading to the standoff with police from Cortland and other nearby agencies — along with special weapons and tactics units from Syracuse.

Clark surrendered around 8 a.m. March 28. He was treated for a non-life threatening gunshot wound to his left forearm. Knapp was taken to University Hospital in Syracuse, and released the next day.

Clark remains in Cortland County Jail.

BLACK LIVES MATTER AND BACK THE BLUE

Protests, marches and against racism, police brutality and discrimination happened from coast to coast last summer following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May.

Cortland County was no exception. Protests in Homer, including a march with hundreds of people, and Cortland gave residents a chance to voice their disgust for the mistreatment of Black and other non-white people at the hands of law enforcement.

A “Black Lives Matter” mural was painted in the intersection of Main and Court streets in Cortland.

That was quickly followed by events supporting police and first responders by groups including Cortland’s Back the Blue.

The group had a motorcade event in October, though claims were made that people who supported Back the Blue made insults and threats outside the home of one of Cortland’s Black Lives Matter organizers.

A mural stating “Back the Blue” on Court Street near Church Street was initially approved by the Cortland Common Council in August but was postponed in September.

SECOND SHOOTING

The city of Cortland experienced its second shooting of 2020 in July when a Groton man shot one man and shot at another after they didn’t stick up for the Groton man’s female acquaintance.

Robert S. Bailey, 40, of 7 Short Road, was charged with first-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, felonies; prohibited use of a weapon, a misdemeanor.

Bailey, though, was released Dec. 8 after witnesses who identified Bailey would not testify before a grand jury.

A 19-year-old woman said someone stole $120 she had left in a fanny pack at a home on Vennette Street on July 25. A disagreement over who took the money preceded the shooting and the victim said someone struck her. The owner of the fanny pack called Bailey, who arrived to help her.

Bailey then accused two men of not standing up for the woman and shot at the two. He struck one, Anthony Bryant, who was taken to University Hospital in Syracuse.

Witnesses identified Bailey as the shooter, and he was arrested later that day during a traffic stop in Groton.

RISE IN OVERDOSES

Cortland County saw a rise in the number of overdoses in 2020 from 2019, though causes were unclear.

The Cortland County Health Department reported 87 overdoses between March 1 and Sept. 29, an increase from 74 during the same period in 2019.

Additionally, 20 of the 34 autopsies were related to overdoses, Cortland County Coroner Whitney Meeker said.

“We did not have nearly that many last year,” she said in October.

The cause of rise in overdoses was unclear but two hypotheses circulated:

  • That bail reform prevented inmates from getting drug treatment services.
  • A new drug, brorphine — a cheap synthetic opiate used to cut heroin — may have been a factor.

RAY COLE SENTENCED

A trial that began in March, and delayed during the coronavirus pandemic, ended last summer when the defendant was convicted of raping, drugging and imprisoning a woman in May 2019.

Raymond Cole Jr., 59, was found guilty July 24 on charges of first-degree rape, second-degree assault, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree unlawful imprisonment, felonies.

Cole was sentenced Oct. 15 to 20 years in prison for the rape, seven years for the assault, 3 1/2 to 7 1/2 years probation for the weapons possession and two to four years probation for the imprisonment.

All will run concurrently and be followed by 10 years of post-release supervision.

Cole was accused of holding a 34-year-old woman captive in his 13 Brown Ave., Cortland, residence from May 30 to June 3, 2019, drugging her with a “bath salt” type drug known as Molly and raping her repeatedly.

The trial for Cole began in early March but had to be postponed only a few weeks later until July as one of the jurors said they had been in contact with a confirmed COVID case and that the court could not force the other jurors to be near the juror who came in contact with the exposure.