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Attorney General James’ Office of Special Investigation Releases Report on Death of Dedrick James

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office of Special Investigation (OSI) today released its report on the death of Dedrick James of Rochester. Following a thorough investigation, which included interviews with officers and Mr. James’ grandmother, who was at the scene, as well as review of crime scene evidence and ballistics testing, OSI concluded the evidence establishes that Mr. James died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest when members of the United States Marshal’s Service Fugitive Task Force (USMS Task Force) attempted to arrest him on an outstanding warrant for allegedly assaulting his young son. 

In December 2020, in the Wayne County town of Marion, the New York State Police (NYSP) began an investigation into injuries sustained by Mr. James’ two-year-old son. The NYSP interviewed Mr. James twice throughout the months-long investigation, and based on those interviews, accounts from the mother of the child, and other evidence, a warrant was issued for Mr. James’ arrest in July 2021. Over the next few weeks, law enforcement made multiple attempts to arrest Mr. James, but could not locate him. 

The NYSP investigator called Mr. James multiple times and visited the Rochester address Mr. James provided, but did not receive a response. The NYSP obtained an arrest warrant from the Marion Town Justice, charging Mr. James with Assault in the Second Degree, which they then referred to the USMS Task Force in Rochester to locate and arrest Mr. James. The USMS Task Force receives arrest warrant referrals from participating task force member agencies for cases limited to serious felonies, including Assault in the Second Degree. 

On September 15, 2021, based on observations indicating Mr. James was then at the Rochester address, multiple USMS Task Force officers from agencies including USMS, NYSP, and the Rochester Police Department (RPD) went to the residence at 6 Vineland Terrace to arrest Mr. James. Several officers knocked on the front door, and Mr. James’ grandmother answered. Mr. James came out of a bedroom and approached the officers, but then ran into a bathroom when told he was under arrest. NYSP Investigator Ulatowski, RPD Officer Baker, and USMS Deputy Marshal Smith followed him into the bathroom, where Investigator Ulatowski attempted to restrain Mr. James from behind in a bear hug. That officer and Mr. James then fell together into the bathtub. Mr. James had a gun in his hand, which he pointed at Investigator Ulatowski’s head. A brief struggle to disarm Mr. James ensued and the gun went off, fatally striking Mr. James in the chest. 

Evidence technicians who arrived on the scene following the incident concluded that none of the officers present discharged their weapon. A Smith & Wesson .380 Pistol was recovered from the scene, and after ballistics testing and an autopsy by the medical examiner, it was concluded that Mr. James was killed by a single bullet discharged from the recovered firearm.

Based on the available evidence, OSI determined that a prosecutor would not be able to disprove that the officers’ actions were justified. Under New York law, police officers may use physical force to arrest a person to the extent reasonably necessary. In this case, none of the officers were found to have used deadly physical force against Mr. James. The physical force they did use was to prevent Mr. James from evading arrest or firing his gun.  

At the time of this incident, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) had recently changed its policy to permit USMS Task Force members to wear BWCs, but full implementation had not yet occurred. BWCs are critical to thorough and fair investigations and promote transparency, accountability, and safety of all parties. OSI recommends the DOJ and USMS ensure full implementation of BWCs by Task Force Officers without further delay. 

“My office is committed to conducting thorough, independent, and transparent investigations into every case that we undertake, including an exhaustive review of this incident,” said Attorney General James. “We have consistently recommended that members of all law enforcement agencies wear and use body-worn cameras to aid in efforts to uphold the highest standards of safety, fairness, and accountability. I urge the USMS Task Force and its member agencies, including the Rochester Police Department and the New York State Police, to take immediate action to outfit every officer with body-worn cameras.”