Grand jury says NY State Trooper was not wrong in his actions during a standoff

Grand jury says NY State Trooper was not wrong in his actions during a standoff
PBA, 2003-06-26

The following was printed in the June 26, 2003 edition of the Times Union newspaper of Albany.

Officer cleared in fatal shooting

Schenectady– Grand jury finds no wrongdoing in incident that came at the end of a five-hour standoff last July

By DANIELLE T. FURFARO, Staff writer
First published: Thursday, June 26, 2003

A Schenectady County grand jury has cleared a police officer of any wrongdoing in the death of a man after a five-hour standoff outside his home last year.

Officer Kurt Schafsteck fired two shots at Jack Retta, 36, on July 11 after Retta emerged from his home at 1487 Washout Road, Glenville, and fired a shotgun twice at a trooper hidden behind a tree, according to Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney.

The troopers were there to execute a search warrant after Retta became a suspect in a double-homicide that had occurred a few days earlier.

Carney said he was fairly sure from the outset that Schafsteck, one of four officers that fired at Retta but the only one to hit his mark, had done nothing wrong. But he has a policy of investigating all instances of deadly force used by police officers.

"I think it is important, when you have a death that affects a cross-section of the community, to investigate that death," said Carney.

After his death, Retta was indicted for the murders of longtime friends George R. Kottke, 58, of Edinburg in northern Saratoga County, and Mary Y. Orchid, 44, of Brooklyn, based on evidence collected at his home following the standoff.

The evidence included blood that matched the DNA of the victims on a knife that Retta was carrying when he was killed; a bloody boot print that matched the boots Retta was wearing when troopers entered his home; Retta’s partial fingerprint left in blood on an exterior stairwell at Kottke’s house; and blood in Retta’s vehicle.

According to Carney, on the day that Retta was killed, officers showed up at his home to execute the search warrant. Retta holed up in his home, and officers spent hours trying to get him to come out. They used a loud speaker and a bullhorn, sent a friend to talk to Retta and called him on his phone. At some point, Retta came out of the house and pointed his shotgun at officers, before letting his nine German shepherds loose.

Then the officers set off two flash grenades and fired nonlethal rubber bullets at an upstairs window. Retta then fired his shotgun at the officer who was behind the tree.

Schafsteck shot Retta once in the arm. Retta called Scotia police and a dispatcher told him to surrender. Minutes after Retta refused and hung up, Schafsteck fired the fatal shot through a window.