State's FOIL expert says there's no reason the name of the police officer involved in the Oct. 4 shooting should not have been released

The Daily Messenger has filed a Freedom of Information request with the city of Canandaigua seeking the release of the name of the police officer involved in the Oct. 4 fatal shooting at Pinnacle North Apartments.

“Clearly public, clearly public, clearly public,” said Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, referring to the identity of a city police officer involved in a shooting. He suggested asking for the names of any officers placed on administrative leave since Oct. 4.

“There may be other elements of the record that can be held, but the mere identify of the officer acting in the performance of his duties would be public, even though there is a possibility that other aspects of the record may be withheld,” Freeman said.

Repeated verbal requests for the name of the officer were denied by city officials in the shooting that claimed the life of Sandy Guardiola, an off-duty parole officer living at the complex who engaged in an exchange of gunfire with the police officer. The police officer, who was not harmed, was immediately placed on administrative leave, as is customary for an officer-involved shooting.

Under the Freedom of Information Law, an agency is required to respond within five business days of receipt of a request. Nancy Abdallah, the city clerk/treasurer who is also the city's record access officer, immediately responded, notifying Messenger Post Media its request will be granted or denied within 20 business days of receipt.

She declined to provide the information Tuesday.

“I gave you notification that I received your FOIL, and I'm following the proper procedures,” Abdallah said.

Freeman said the beginning of the Freedom of Information Law includes a statement of legislative intent.

“Among other things, it says 'It is incumbent upon the state and its localities to extend public accountability wherever and whenever feasible,'” he said. “Therefore, when an item within a record is public and the record is easy to locate, there is no valid reason for delaying disclosure. There must be a record that identifies the officer who was engaged in the event.”

In a series of press conferences since the shooting, police have disclosed that a duty handgun issued by the state to Guardiola was found in the apartment and it had fired at least one round.

The Canandaigua police officer had gone to the complex at the request of a fellow parole officer to check on her well-being after she did not report to work that morning. State Police Major Rick Allen said Guardiola had been in a car accident in the Southern Tier a few weeks before, was recovering from injuries and due to return to work the morning of Oct. 4.

Staff at Pinnacle provided access to the apartment for the Canandaigua police officer who had first tried to contact Guardiola before entering the apartment at 4:29 p.m., about 15 minutes after the request. Two minutes later, he radioed 911 that shots had been fired. Allen had reported Guardiola was in her bedroom at the time.

The police officer, who has not been identified, is on paid administrative leave pending progression of the multi-agency investigation, now being directed by New York State Police.

Preliminary autopsy results, announced Friday, show Guardiola died as the result of a gunshot wound. Allen said it would be several months before final autopsy results are available.

Police are also awaiting forensics and other test reports and have said they will release more information as it becomes available.

Capt. Carolyn Mullin said most of Guardiola's family is downstate, where the parole officer had lived until about a year ago when she moved to western New York.

A representative of the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said Guardiola had been an employee since May 2015, mostly recently assigned to the Western Region.