Watch: Knife-wielding man stabs officer in face, is fatally shot

The district attorney's office said the officer's use of force was "clearly a last resort"


By Douglas Hook
masslive.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — It started with a 911 call to the Springfield dispatch operator on Sunday morning, Jan. 9 — a report of an attempted stabbing on Genesee and Franklin streets.

“Some guy just tried to stab me in the neck with a knife,” the caller said to the 911 operator hurriedly at approximately 8:33 a.m.

Prompted by that initial 911 call, Springfield Police Officers Arjel Falcon and Christopher J. Roberts responded to the scene and quickly identified the suspect as Orlando Taylor III, seen pacing up and down the street just outside his grandmother’s house.

Just 20 minutes later the lives of everyone involved would be changed forever.

Taylor would be fatally shot, Falcon would suffer a serious stab wound that doctors now say may result in permanent nerve damage, and Earlene Victoria Taylor, who watched it all unfold in front of her, would lose her grandson.

Video footage released by the Hampden District Attorney’s Office Friday from the two officer’s body-worn cameras as well as a nearby security camera shows in detail the officers’ interactions with Taylor, Falcon being stabbed and then shooting Taylor as the officer ran backward shouting for Taylor to drop the weapon as the suspect approached for a second time.

From the moment the officers arrived chaos ensued. Taylor, appearing agitated in the video, ignores the commands from both officers to drop his weapon, a 4-inch stiletto knife. He quickly turns on Falcon and stabs him in the neck as he runs past him down Genesee Street. The officers pursue, shouting for Taylor to stop while calling for backup and giving the location of the suspect.

Taylor is then seen on the video turning back toward the officers, just outside Taylor’s grandmother’s house, and runs toward Falcon for a second time. Both Roberts and Falcon start backing away, repeatedly shouting, “drop the weapon, drop it!”

As Taylor closes in on Falcon with the knife for the second time the officer fires two quick shots at close range, mortally wounding the 23-year-old, who is seen dropping to the pavement.

Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni conducted a full investigation following the incident and released the results Friday, determining Falcon shot Taylor in self-defense.

Gulluni found that Falcon used “the reasonable and necessary use of lethal force” and that Falcon’s “use of deadly force was clearly a last resort.”

“The death of Orlando Taylor III is an unmistakable tragedy,” Gulluni stated in conclusion. “Yet, the role of this office is to find and consider facts, as established in the undisputed evidence, and apply the relevant law.”

The combined videos show the moment officers Roberts and Falcon arrive in response to the 911 call and the moment Taylor is shot by Falcon.

In the audio from the 911 call, the caller that was just attacked by a man, now known to be Taylor, describes the clothing that he wore to the 911 dispatch operator.

“He just came up behind me, said, ‘You good?’ I said, ‘Excuse me,’ and he starts to stab me in the neck,” the caller stated.

Due to the cold January weather, the caller was wearing bulky clothing and Taylor was not able to connect his knife with the person’s neck.

At roughly 8:45 a.m. video surveillance footage from a house across the street captured Taylor pacing back and forth on the corner of Genesee and Franklin Street, near his grandmother’s house where he was staying. Earlene Victoria Taylor, Taylor’s grandmother, told MassLive that she saw her grandson walking down toward the Franklin Supermarket from her home at around the same time.

Springfield Police Lt. David Reigner interviewed a witness whose name had been redacted in the report. She told Reigner that she was watching TV when she went over to the window and saw Taylor outside.

“I opened the curtains, and literally what I saw is a young guy,” said the witness. “I’m not sure what kind of weapon it was but it seemed like he was scared.”

Falcon’s body-worn camera captured the incident from 8:46 a.m. just moments before Taylor plunged a 4-inch stiletto knife into the left side of his face. The whole incident, from the time the police arrived to the moment Falcon shot Taylor, was less than a minute.

The witness detailed that they saw one officer, now known to be Falcon, bleeding from his neck and that Taylor put his hands in the air when the police pulled out their service weapons. The witness stated that Taylor started to move toward the two officers again. The body-worn cameras of Falcon and Roberts confirm this account.

“The officer that kept saying him, you know, like, whatever they were saying to tell him to stop,” the witness stated during the interview.

In Falcon’s use of force report to Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl C. Clapprood, he stated that as Taylor turned and came toward him again, he believed that he would be stabbed for a second time and his life was threatened.

During an interview with MassLive, one day after the shooting, family members questioned why the officers hadn’t used a taser to subdue Taylor.

“Officers are not expected to respond to a lethal force threat with a less-lethal force option such as an electronic weapon,” reads an excerpt from the Springfield Police Department General Order issued in 2015 under former Springfield Police Commissioner John R. Barbieri.

The guideline goes on to say that officers should consider the taser when there is adequate cover or barriers.

“I’m yelling at the cops. I’m yelling at Orlando, I’m yelling at the cops and I’m telling [the police] ‘don’t hurt him. Don’t shoot him,’ because I saw the [policemen had their] guns drawn,” said Earlene Victoria Taylor. “I was telling them not to shoot him.”

Falcon’s body-worn camera shows that Taylor raised his arms and started to run toward him. Earlene Victoria Taylor’s screams can be clearly heard on the audio.

“Don’t shoot him,” she shouts.

Two shots rang out in quick succession from Falcon’s service weapon hitting Taylor twice, in the neck and the torso. Taylor dropped to the curb.

“Shots fired, shots fired,” Falcon shouts into his radio while Roberts orders Taylor to stay down.

Earlene Victoria Taylor walks over to her grandson’s body with her arms out to her sides. Roberts orders her to stay away.

“He stabbed me in the neck,” Falcon says before radioing for an ambulance.

As Taylor lay on the road in the snow, Roberts immediately reacts and tells Falcon to grab the medical bag from the police cruiser while he puts on latex gloves and gives first aid to the 23-year-old.

Falcon’s body-worn camera was still recording as he retrieved the medical bag and returned to aid his partner to try to save Taylor without saying a word but also still bleeding from his injury. It’s only once he returns that he starts to speak of his own wound and the numbness he feels in his jaw.

“Hey, give me something to put pressure right here,” said Falcon to a fellow officer that had now arrived at the scene. “I’m losing a lot of blood.”

No stranger to danger, Falcon received the Bronze Star Army Commendation with Valor Device for actions in Afghanistan. He entered a building after it was hit with a rocket and helped get everyone out and they all survived, according to Walsh.

He also received a commendation after he saved a suicidal woman’s life by diving into the Connecticut River after seeing her jump into the deep and fast-moving water on Nov. 4, 2018.

Falcon has received surgery with a facial and nerve specialist in Boston and is set to have additional surgery in the near future with the hope to repair his permanent nerve damage to about 70-80% functionality, according to Springfield Police Spokesperson Ryan Walsh.

“He has a long road to recovery both mentally and physically,” Walsh said.

Taylor had no previous criminal history and no medication in his system, according to the post-mortem toxicology report by Medical Examiner Robert Welton. Questions as to why he was agitated and what motivated him to react in a violent way on Jan. 9 remain unanswered.

Adamina Eddington, Taylor’s mother, told MassLive recently that she had called the Behavioral Health Network (BHN) crisis line two days before the confrontation took place.

“What could I have done differently?” Taylor’s mother, Eddington stated.

Steven Winn, president and CEO of BHN told MassLive he could not comment on any specifics. He did point out, however, that as a policy if anyone reaches out to BHN through the crisis line under these circumstances, an internal investigation is then conducted.

“Whenever we see that there’s an event that turns out poorly, as this one did, we look to see what our involvement was, what we did and what we could have done differently,” Winn said.

Winn also pointed out that throughout the COVID pandemic, the need for mental health and addiction treatment has skyrocketed and BHN is doing its best to meet those needs.

At the time of this report, the family of Taylor has not heard from BHN regarding an investigation.

After not finding support with BHN, Earlene Victoria Taylor, Eddington and Taylor’s aunt Lan-Nisha Taylor reached out to the African Diaspora Mental Health Association (ADMHA) and were planning to bring Taylor for a session the day on Jan. 9. Sadly, it was too late.

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