Manhattan DA’s Office Releases Findings of Investigation into Police-Involved Fatal Shooting of Armed Robbery Suspect on May 16, 2014

July 29, 2015

In accordance with state law surrounding Grand Jury testimony, the following information can be shared pursuant to an order of the New York County Supreme Court, and because certain evidence and interviews were conducted outside the Grand Jury process:[1]

At approximately 1:40 p.m. on Friday, May 16, 2014, Scott Kato entered the Health Source Pharmacy at 1302 Second Avenue between East 68th and 69th Streets in Manhattan. He was carrying an umbrella and wearing a Yankees baseball hat. As shown on a video taken by the store’s security camera, he pointed a loaded gun at an employee and the pharmacy owner and demanded prescription drugs and money from the cash register. The pharmacy owner handed Kato prescription bottles in a plastic bag, including a bottle that had been outfitted with a GPS tracking device that automatically activated upon being removed from its base. During the encounter, Kato also held a gun to the back of an employee’s head, and took money from the cash register. He fled the pharmacy with the cash and a bag filled with numerous bottles of prescription drugs, as well as the decoy bottle. 
Members of the 19th Precinct who were responding to the 911 call obtained a physical description of the suspect. Meanwhile, the NYPD Real Time Crime Center was alerted by the activation of the GPS tracking device, and broadcast over the police radio the locations and speed of the device, suggesting that the suspect was travelling in a vehicle heading northbound on York Avenue towards the FDR Drive. 
Roughly ten minutes later, police officers from the 19th and 23rd Precincts who heard this information responded to the northbound FDR Drive Service Road at East 96th Street, where the GPS tracking device was stationary. Four police officers blocked the northbound FDR Drive Service Road, while four other officers arrived from the south behind vehicles stopped at a traffic light. The eight officers, who were all in uniform, left their marked patrol cars and began searching on foot. They converged on Kato’s car because he was the only person who fit the description of the suspect.

As the officers approached Kato’s car, they issued loud commands through his open window to show his hands and leave the vehicle. Kato, who was seated in the driver’s seat and was the sole occupant of the car, failed to comply, and instead reached under the front seat. One of the officers standing at the driver’s side door repeatedly yelled, “Don’t do it, don’t do it.” Kato continued to ignore these warnings and instead, while looking at the officers, raised his right hand and pointed a black gun at the officer. In response, the officer, as well as three others at the scene, fired their service weapons twenty-nine times, striking Kato ten times, killing him. No civilians were injured.

Following the shooting, police removed a black nine-millimeter Hi-Point semi-automatic pistol from Kato’s hand. It was loaded with eight rounds of ammunition. Numerous prescription pill bottles, including one containing the GPS tracking device from Health Source Pharmacy, an umbrella, and a Yankees hat were among the items recovered from Kato’s vehicle.  

In keeping with departmental protocol, the officers who discharged their service weapons were taken to the hospital, where they were treated for tinnitus and given Intoxilyzer exams. All were found to be fit for duty. 

Each of the officers who discharged their weapons stated that they did so because they believed Kato was armed and about to shoot one or more officers. Prior to this incident, none of the officers had ever discharged his or her weapon in the line of duty.

As is protocol for police-involved fatal shootings, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office conducted a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the civilian death. Two assistant district attorneys from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office who specialize in homicide cases responded to the scene on May 16, 2014. They investigated in consultation with other senior prosecutors. The evidence was presented to a Grand Jury, which heard the facts of the case. It concluded its investigation on July 15, 2015, finding that each officer’s use of deadly physical force was lawful. 

Laws pertaining to Grand Jury secrecy preclude disclosure of evidence elicited before the Grand Jury. Pursuant to an order of the New York County Supreme Court, the District Attorney’s Office is permitted to share the following:
•    The Grand Jury heard testimony from twenty-one witnesses, including civilian witnesses and the four officers who discharged their service weapons.
•    Twenty exhibits were admitted into evidence before the Grand Jury.
•    After deliberation on the evidence presented in this matter, the Grand Jury considered the conduct of each police officer separately and found that the officers’ use of deadly physical force was lawful. 

[1] This incident occurred before July 8, 2015, and involved an armed civilian. Executive Order 147, which establishes a special prosecutor for incidents involving unarmed civilians killed by law enforcement officers acting in their official capacity, is therefore inapplicable.