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Attorney General James’ Office of Special Investigation Releases Report on Death of Allison Lakie

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office of Special Investigation (OSI) today released its report on the death of Allison Lakie in Syracuse, Onondaga County. Following a thorough investigation, including review of footage from body worn cameras (BWCs), interviews with police officers and civilians, and review of radio transmissions and 911 calls, ballistics testing reports, crime scene evidence, and photographs, OSI concluded that a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that the officers who shot Ms. Lakie were justified.  

On October 20, 2021 at 1:21 a.m., Ms. Lakie’s mother called 911, reporting her daughter was detoxing from alcohol and in a paranoid state. When the dispatcher asked Ms. Lakie’s mother whether she was requesting police or an ambulance, she asked that an ambulance be sent to the Tipperary Hill residence.  

Upon arrival, Ms. Lakie’s mother brought emergency medical personnel into the kitchen, where after a conversation in which Ms. Lakie said she did not believe they were real paramedics, she stood up from her seated position and revealed she was wielding a knife, which she appeared to point toward the paramedics. The paramedics then left the residence and requested police back up and an additional ambulance equipped to administer a sedative if necessary.  

At 1:36 a.m., Ms. Lakie’s mother called 911 again, and the Onondaga County 911 Center sent members of the Syracuse Police Department (SPD) to the house, along with another ambulance and additional paramedics. When SPD officers arrived at 1:43 a.m., paramedics on the scene reported Ms. Lakie had pulled an eight-inch knife on them while they were assessing her in the kitchen. Officers, some of whom were certified in Crisis Intervention Team training, went to the enclosed front porch and began to speak with Ms. Lakie, who was still in the kitchen and refusing to come out, occasionally brandishing a knife.  

Additional officers arrived some time later, including members of SPD’s Crisis Response Unit. SPD officers spoke with Ms. Lakie for two hours in an attempt to deescalate the situation, trying to persuade her to put down the knife and come out of the house. At one point, Ms. Lakie swung a knife at officers who briefly approached the kitchen to check her for injuries. 

Eventually, Ms. Lakie started a fire in the kitchen, which began to grow, prompting officers to call for support from the Syracuse Fire Department (SFD). When firefighters arrived, members of SPD and SFD devised a plan to go into the house to extinguish the fire and try to take Ms. Lakie out of harm’s way. Officers entered the house, went to the kitchen entryway, and told Ms. Lakie to drop the knives she had in each hand, which she did not do. They tried to subdue her with tasers, which were ineffective. A member of SFD entered the kitchen and put the fire out, and the resulting smoke and steam obscured the officers’ view. Ms. Lakie came out of the haze, moving quickly towards the officers with a knife in each hand, at which point four officers fired their service weapons.  

SPD officers rendered aid such as CPR and helped fire department and emergency medical personnel put Ms. Lakie in an ambulance. Life-saving attempts failed, and Ms. Lakie was pronounced dead at Upstate University Hospital. 

Under New York law, when the defense of justification is raised, the burden is on the prosecution to disprove justification beyond a reasonable doubt. Justification includes reasonably using deadly physical force to defend oneself or others against another person’s use of deadly physical force. In this case, the investigation showed that Ms. Lakie moved quickly toward the officers with a knife in each hand before they fired. In these circumstances, a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that the firing officers were justified in using deadly physical force, and OSI determined that criminal charges could not be pursued.