A New York police officer who lied to state troopers and filed a false 911 police report about a group of Black youths will end his policing career with retirement, rather than termination. Cohoes, New York Mayor Bill Keeler announced that officer Sean McKown will be allowed to retire this month despite outrage from the community, Associated Press reports.
On June 6, McKown called State Police in Essex County while off-duty. The 46-year-old white man told troopers that a group of Black youths had intimidated him and that one had fired a gun at him, causing him to return fire. McKown said he fired his weapon four times at the group before ditching his gun and calling the authorities.
“A group of eight to 10 black males came around his property and words were exchanged after he questioned why they were on his property,” a dispatcher wrote in an internal email reported by the Times Union. “They told him off. They then returned for round two, more words were exchanged to which at that point gunfire was exchanged between both parties. Sean is uninjured, however is waiting for State Police response as they are on another call.”
When troopers arrived, they reportedly found McKown asleep and intoxicated. Although he had fired a gun, police found no evidence that anyone had shot at him. A neighbor’s security video also showed that McKown’s gun had been deliberately put down, not tossed aside in a panic. State Police described his statements as “extremely inconsistent.”
McKown’s story — it turned out — was completely false. Instead, McKown had questioned a group of Black people about why they were walking in his neighborhood. Two men and one woman spoke with State Police after the incident and said they had felt harassed by McKown, but declined to press charges against him. No shots were fired at the police officer, though he had shot at a tree stump after being frightened by a noise outside his home.
McKown admitted to fabricating the story and told troopers he didn’t even remember what he said during the 911 call. He remained an employee of the Cohoes Police Department and has been on sick leave until his scheduled retirement this month.
Associated Press reports that the State Police have only said that their investigation into the incident is closed. Activists and community leaders are demanding more information from the department and want to know why McKown hasn’t been charged, especially as state lawmakers work to pass the “Amy Cooper” bill, which would make filing a false and discriminatory police report a hate crime.
“It feels as though someone is trying to sweep this thing under the rug,” Adirondack Diversity Initiative Director Nicole Hylton-Patterson told AP. “If it’s true that he made a false report that put the lives of these youths at risk, he should be charged and prosecuted.”
McKown has worked for the Cohoes Police Department for 20 years and is a nephew of the department’s former Police Chief William Heslin. When State Police questioned him about the incident, he reportedly asked them why they were trying to “jam him up.” The Cohoes mayor has said that allowing McKown to simply retire would be the “easiest” and “least expensive” way to remove him from the department.
“So if these facts are true, then that would be the desired goal — separation of service — and the most certain way to get there, the easiest way to get there, the least expensive way to get there is the retirement route.” Mayor Keeler said.