On Thursday March 31, 17-year-old Cazenovia resident Justin R. Arnold was shot and killed by Canastota Police officers after leading them on a high-speed, four-mile chase.
Police have ruled the events to be an case of “suicide by cop.”
Arnold was home-schooled as a high school student and was enrolled part-time at Morrisville State College taking math and writing skills classes.
According to Police and released reports, Arnold falsely reported an armed car-jacking the afternoon of March 31. He told the Canastota Police Department that a man wearing sunglasses forcefully stole a silver Dodge Stratus at gunpoint from the parking lot of the Sherill Tops Supermarket. Police arrived on the scene to discover no witnesses or victims of the car-jacking.
Shortly afterwards, officers observed the silver Dodge Stratus being driven by Arnold in Canastota, at the intersection of Route 5 and Peterboro Street. When they attempted to pull the vehicle over and investigate, the driver gave chase and led officers on high-speed pursuit into the town on Sullivan. The chase ended as Arnold turned onto John Peet Road, a dead end.
When Arnold finally stopped his vehicle, he exited the Dodge Stratus and was ordered to show his hands to the responding officers. Arnold did not immediately comply and brandished what the policemen believed to be a black handgun.
When he refused drop the weapon, the police fired approximately 10 rounds at Arnold, four of which hit him. Arnold was pronounced dead at the scene.
After further investigation, it was determined that the weapon Arnold possessed was a black pellet gun. A note was discovered on Arnold’s electronic device, detailing his intent to commit suicide. The vehicle Arnold was driving belonged to a family member, and was it apparent that no grand theft auto occurred.
The officers involved in the shooting are 17-year-veteran Chief James Zophy and 7-year-veteran Officer Sean Barton.
When police officers are forced to fire upon someone in what is called a “suicide by cop,” it is particularly troubling for police officers, said Laurence Miller Ph.D., a clinical forensic and police psychologist from South Florida.
“On one hand, there is nothing heroic about it, and on the other, they feel baited and manipulated into doing something they never wanted to do,” he said.
All indicators show that the officers correctly followed protocol and performed their job properly.
Calling hours were held on Monday April 4 at Tait Funeral Home in Cazenovia. A funeral service was conducted Tuesday morning at the Cazenovia United Methodist Church. Arnold will be laid to rest in St. James Cemetery later this spring.