Gunman shot himself and wasn’t killed by officer, chief says

Apr 18, 2024, 12:01 PM

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A gunman who wounded a police officer in the leg after a brief car chase shot himself to death, the Albany police chief said Thursday, and was not killed by the officer’s returning fire as police initially implied.

Autopsy results showed that Amiel Layeni, 28, “died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head,” Chief Eric Hawkins said at a news conference.

Police released some of a recording from Officer Jonathan Damphier’s body-worn camera, showing him breaking off a chase of a speeding car through a neighborhood. Damphier then spots the same car. As he approaches it, Layeni emerges from behind the car with his arm raised and pointed at the officer. Two loud bangs are heard. “Shots fired,” the officer shouts as he runs for cover.

The video shows only the first moments of the encounter, when the officer was wounded, and not the gunfire that followed. Hawkins said more than 10 shell casings were recovered at the scene.

It’s “important to put something out there,” but “wasn’t appropriate” to make all of it public, he said.

Damphier’s prognosis is good after surgery for an upper leg wound at Albany Medical Center, the chief said.

Officials had implied earlier that Layeni was killed by Damphier. “The officer returned fire and the suspect was shot at some point during that confrontation,” Hawkins had said Wednesday.

Hawkins said Thursday that he had been careful with his wording because it was not immediately clear what had happened. “I was intentional about what I said about it,” he said.

Layeni did have a graze wound from another gunshot, officials said.

Hawkins said police found two illegally possessed 9-millimeter handguns at the shooting scene and a search warrant served on Layeni’s Albany home turned up a 9-millimeter ghost gun.

Officials said police will review the shooting internally and the state attorney general and the Albany Community Police Review Board will investigate. Hawkins said Wednesday that Damphier was clearly ambushed and did exactly what he was supposed to do.

Damphier, with the department since 2021, was the first Albany police officer shot in the line of duty since since Lt. John Finn was fatally wounded on Dec. 23, 2003.

“We’ve not had an officer struck by gunfire in two decades in the city of Albany,” Mayor Kathy Sheehan said. “And so this is for all of us newer territory.”

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Gunman shot himself and wasn’t killed by officer, chief says