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September 16, 2013

Police use Taser on unruly college student

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — A sergeant used a Taser to subdue a college student who was acting irrationally and threatened officers with a knife, the Oneonta police chief said Sunday.

Cary N. Socci, 25, of 154 Chestnut St., faces a felony menacing and other charges, Chief Dennis Nayor said.

An investigation revealed that Socci was under the influence of mushrooms, or psilocybin, an hallucinogen, and the dangerous situation carried high potential for injuries, Nayor said.

Socci, a student at the State University College at Oneonta, police said, and a roommate, also a SUNY Oneonta student and another friend were at Socci’s residence when the incident occurred.

At 10:15 p.m. Saturday, one of the friends called police to report that Socci was acting out of control, Nayor said. The two officers who responded to Socci’s residence called for assistance from a sergeant, then two other officers and two detectives went to the scene.

Police spoke to Socci, Nayor said, but he didn’t calm down and allegedly threw a cup of liquid at officers, then bent over and picked up a kitchen knife with a 12-inch blade.

“The Taser got him to drop the knife, which was very fortunate,” Nayor said. 

He said Sgt. Christopher Witzenburg deployed the Taser. However, Socci continued to fight with officers, and though eventually secured, he remained “highly volatile,” Nayor said. After being taken by Oneonta Fire Department crews to A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital, Socci was combative with hospital staff and had to be restrained and sedated, Nayor said.

Nayor said charges pending against Socci include fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest, misdemeanors and menacing, a felony count on which he will be arraigned.

Nayor credited police with taking actions Saturday night that prevented injuries to Socci or to themselves. A situation involving a person under the influence of drugs who is wielding a sharp object and refusing to comply with police is among the most dangerous officers face, he said.

Nayor said officers would have been justified in using deadly physical force during Saturday’s incident if a Taser hadn’t been available.

Pepper spray wasn’t used Saturday and wouldn’t have been appropriate in such circumstances when officers were 4 or 5 feet away from a suspect with a knife, Nayor said. Pepper spray could increase the risk of a defendant acting more violently, he said, and officers would be subject  to “cross contamination” by the spray.

Among Oneonta police, the department’s five sergeants, the lieutenant and chief are authorized to use a Taser, a non-lethal weapon that delivers a temporarily incapacitating electrical jolt.

Earlier this year, Nayor told the Oneonta Common Council that he would request more Tasers for the department. The council approved use of Tasers by city police in March 2012.