SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) — An off-duty Vermont sheriff’s deputy who was allegedly involved in a shootout and wounded on the streets of Saratoga Springs was defending himself and didn’t realize that police were shouting at him to drop his gun, his lawyer told a news station Monday.
“One hundred percent, he was a victim,” Deputy Vito Caselnova IV’s lawyer, Greg Teresi, told WNYT-TV/NewsChannel 13.
While Caselnova’s account emerged from his attorney, the other gunman’s version of the confrontation early Sunday remains unclear. Authorities said he is from Utica but have not released his name.
Saratoga Springs police said the gunfire erupted after a bar fight spiraled outside in the city’s historic downtown. After a group of people shoved the deputy to the ground, bullets flew between him and one of his adversaries, Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino said Sunday.
Police arrived to see the deputy holding a gun, and they opened fire after he didn’t respond to repeated commands to drop it, Montagnino said.
Police fired at least some of the bullets that left the 24-year-old deputy with multiple wounds. The other man and Caselnova’s girlfriend also were wounded. All three were hospitalized and in stable condition.
Teresi said he believes Caselnova didn’t hear the officers’ commands.
“The body goes into a different state — and I believe the term is ‘seeing red’ — where you are locked in, and you are focused on one thing,” Teresi told the news station. “My client was only concerned about one threat at that time, the individual that had just shot him, and he was ensuring that that threat did not come back into the equation.”
The Rutland County Sheriff’s Office said Monday that Caselnova, a part-time deputy, was put on administrative leave as New York authorities investigate.