ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A white former police officer has been charged with falsely reporting a gunfight with a group of Black youths at his lakeside camp in the Adirondacks while he was off duty last summer, the Essex County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday.
Sean McKown was arraigned last week on four misdemeanor charges, including falsely reporting an incident and illegally discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling, District Attorney Kristy Sprague said in a news release.
“The charges filed stem from allegedly false reports of an incident (which did not occur) that were allegedly made to 911 by Sean McKown,” Sprague said in a statement. “The discharging of the firearm charge was also allegedly shots fired within 500 feet of a dwelling by Sean McKown, with no specific dwelling or victim named.”
McKown pleaded not guilty and was released without bail to await a court date in February, his lawyer George LaMarche said. He said he was awaiting further details from the prosecutor’s office and declined to comment further.
McKown was allowed to retire from the Cohoes police force rather than face disciplinary measures after the episode in June that followed a night of drinking. McKown initially told state police he had been confronted by eight to 10 Black youths outside his camp and had exchanged gunfire. The Albany Times Union reported that McKown acknowledged his story about being shot at was a lie.
Details about the incident have not been released by State Police, who closed their investigation without filing charges. Sprague reopened an investigation amid pressure from activists and community leaders who sent a petition with more than 700 signatures to her office in September.
“I am encouraged by this, but it is only one brick in a much larger house that still needs to be built in this country, to treat Black Americans equally and to create a justice system that works for everyone,” Nicole Hylton-Patterson, director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, said in a statement.
Attorney Matthew Melewski, speaking for the petition organizers, said the group is pleased that McKown has been charged, but “we are alarmed if he was not charged with a felony, because that suggests he will continue to possess and potentially endanger others with firearms.”