Off-duty Vt. deputy indicted in 2022 gunfight with N.Y. officers

Officer Vito Caselnova IV had gotten into a fight with a group of men and refused responding officers' orders to drop his gun

By Michael Goot
The Post-Star

BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. — A grand jury has indicted the off-duty Vermont sheriff's deputy shot by police for allegedly refusing to drop his weapon after an early morning altercation in Saratoga Springs last fall.

Vito E. Caselnova IV, 25, of Glens Falls, was arraigned in Saratoga County Court Tuesday on felony charges of second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, possession of a firearm in a sensitive location and two counts of possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device. He is also facing misdemeanors of second-degree menacing and second-degree reckless endangerment, as well as a violation of second-degree harassment.

Caselnova pleaded not guilty to the charges before Judge James Murphy. Bail was set at $50,000 cash, $100,000 bond or $200,000 partially secured bond. Caselnova was taken into custody, and one of his attorneys, Greg Teresi, said someone was planning to post the cash bail.

Murphy also issued an order of protection prohibiting Caselnova from having contact with Alexander Colón, one of the other parties involved.

The charges stem from an incident in the early morning hours of Nov. 20 just after 3 a.m. on Caroline Street.

Police said at the time that Caselnova got into an altercation with a group of six people, some or all of whom lived in the Utica area. At least three people attacked Caselnova. He was slammed onto the hood of a car and then knocked to the ground.

At that point, police said, Caselnova pulled his jacket back to reveal he was armed. One of the other individuals drews a handgun and pointed it in the direction of Caselnova and began to fire. Caselnova returned fire. About seven or eight shots were exchanged.

Three officers responded to scene and saw Caselnova waving the gun from side to side, authorities said. They gave eight commands to drop the weapon and get down on the ground. Police said Caselnova begans to turn with the gun and police fired close to a dozen shots.

Caselnova was hospitalized with 10 bullet wounds.

Caselnova is a 2016 graduate from Glens Falls High School. He has no criminal record.

The top count of the indictment carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

Caselnova is a part-time deputy with the Rutland County Sheriff's Office. He was put on administrative leave after the shooting. His current status could not be determined on Tuesday.

Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Heggen declined to say if anyone else would be indicted or face charges.

She reiterated that Tuesday's court hearing resulted from the grand jury's action and she can only comment on "what has been unsealed by the judge at this time."

Caselnova's attorney has said his client acted in self-defense. Heggen said she stands by the grand jury's determination.

"There is a time and place to interpose defenses and if that is something he intends to do, he will have the opportunity to do that himself," she said.

The charge regarding sensitive location refers to the recently passed law that prohibits carrying a concealed weapon in certain places in New York.

"We allege that includes an establishment that is licensed by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act," she said.

Heggen reiterated that the grand jury's indictment followed an extensive amount of research.

"This was not a quick speculation or rush to judgment that occurred, but rather, a thorough, methodical review of significant amounts of evidence. The grand jury made their determinations as it relates to the incident that night based upon all the evidence available to them — quite in contrast to the quick, snap unprecedented judgments that the commissioner of public safety in Saratoga Springs and mayor made a mere 10 hours after the incident occurred — releasing small snippets of video, not understanding any of the other evidence surrounding the incident, while members of law enforcement were still processing the crime scene."

She was referring to Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino and Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim, who released body camera footage after the incident.

Heggen had filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court of Saratoga County to prevent city officials from speaking about the case. That matter is still pending. Heggen said she has not received any update on where that stands.

The Saratoga Springs Police Department issued a statement on the indictment, saying that officers responded rapidly to the exchange of gunfire downtown.

"This shoot out on Broadway illustrates that even Saratoga Springs is not immune to the dangerous gun violence that is plaguing our nation," the department said in a news release. "Our officers reacted in a professional and highly disciplined manner in response to this deadly situation involving multiple armed individuals in a busy area of our City. Once the deadly threat was eliminated, our officers immediately transitioned and began to provide emergency, lifesaving, medical care to those injured. Although this incident was highly stressful and chaotic, our officers performed in an exemplary manner, and within their training and New York State Law governing the use of deadly physical force."

The police also thanked the Saratoga County Sheriff's Office, Saratoga County District Attorney's Office and New York State Police for their assistance.

In a follow-up email, Saratoga Springs Police Sgt. Paul Veitch declined to comment on whether there would be more arrests. "If there are further indictments they will be executed when they are unsealed," he said.

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EARLIER: Off-duty Vt. deputy who was involved in gunfight on unpaid leave

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