MONTGOMERY, N.Y. (AP) — The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James said Friday that it will investigate the fatal shooting of an unarmed man by a state police trooper on the shoulder of a highway north of New York City.
State police say 41-year-old Luke Patterson of Tannersville was fatally shot around 2 a.m. Thursday on Interstate 84 in the Orange County town of Montgomery. Patterson was a chef who had recently sold two restaurants he owned in Arcata, California, and returned to the Catskill village where his parents had a summer home, said Chris Cade, a longtime friend who runs a Tannersville art gallery.
State police have released only basic information so far to explain why the trooper opened fire. Troopers initially responded to a report of a disabled vehicle that had been abandoned in a traffic lane. After moving the car, they spotted Patterson walking alone along the westbound shoulder, officials said.
One of the troopers got out to speak with him while the second trooper drove alongside. At a news conference Thursday, state police Major Pierce Gallagher said the man “did not cooperate with the troopers, refused to comply with any commands and multiple times ignored the troopers.”
When Patterson made a “sudden movement” to try and open the door of the police car, Gallagher said, the trooper on foot opened fire. Patterson was fatally wounded. Police haven’t identified the troopers involved.
“I don’t understand why the first choice was to shoot,” Cade said. “He’s not a violent person.”
Patterson had visited friends around 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Tannersville area and had said he was heading home, Cade said. It’s unclear why Patterson ended up in Montgomery, more than an hour’s drive south.
Patterson was renovating a house to create a boutique wedding destination in the tiny mountain top village of Tannersville, Cade said. The village has undergone a tourism revival through the efforts of Patterson’s mother, artist Elena Patterson, who implemented the “Paint Project” to create dramatic pastel paint schemes on downtown buildings.
Patterson was known for community service, Cade said. He staged large-scale Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless in Arcata and brought Fresh Air Fund kids from New York City to the Catskills. He sold Luke’s Joint and The Other Place in Arcata in 2015.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed an executive order in 2015 directing the attorney general’s office to review cases in which unarmed people are killed by police.
The executive order came in the wake of the death of Eric Garner, the New York City man who died after an officer allegedly put him in a banned chokehold. The intent is to avoid any potential favoritism local prosecutors might show in investigating police officers who often work closely with them on cases.