A witness to a shootout between a Norwich man armed with a semi-automatic pistol and Chenango County sheriff’s deputies told The Daily Star on Friday there are “no ifs, ands or buts” that the use of deadly force by police was justified.
The Thursday night gun battle off state Route 23 in the town of Pitcher ended when Patrick W. Ford, 42, was hit by police gunfire once in the upper torso, Chenango Sheriff Ernest Cutting Jr. said. Ford was being treated Friday night in the intensive care unit at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse. Cutting said he is expected to recover.
Before the shootout was over, Ford had fired numerous times at patrol deputies and state troopers, striking a sheriff’s car and a trooper car, Cutting said.
The witness, Gary Standish, said the man identified by police as Ford apparently became enraged after his Chevrolet pickup truck became tangled in guide wire near the Route 23 home of Standish’s son, also named Gary.
Cutting said Ford, after his truck became disabled, began stumbling around the yard of a nearby home. Ford was traveling with his 9-year-old son as a passenger when the truck struck a mailbox and became disabled.
The elder Standish and his wife, Gail, said the home in question was occupied by their son’s family.
“My son called and said he had somebody walking around drunk in his front yard,” Gail Standish told The Daily Star. “So my husband went down to see if he could help him.”
Immediately upon walking into the yard, the elder Standish said he found himself confronted by an enraged Ford.
“I grabbed him before I realized he had a gun on him, and I was giving him holy heck because he busted the window out of my son’s trailer.” That window, he said, happened to be in the bedroom where his four young granddaughters stay.
“I must have aggravated him because he reached to his side and pulled a pistol out and put it to my head,” said the elder Standish, who is unemployed.
“Then I changed my tune, and tried to talk him out of it,” he recalled. “I told him I’d give him money, that I’d pull his truck out and do whatever he wants.” To avoid being shot in the head, Standish said, he reached for the gun and tried to hold it away from him.
“I reached up and I grabbed his hand and I said, ‘I will get you help. I will do anything you want,” he recalled, adding: “In the meantime, I told my wife to run because he had a gun.”
“That’s when he told me, ‘I’m going to give you two seconds to run,’” the elder Standish said. “After I got away from him, it was like two minutes and he just opened up. He fired about six times. Then, after the cops got there, he was firing at everything.”
The elder Standish said his son and his family ran to his nearby home after they managed to escape from the trailer. Police said Ford fired several rounds at the home’s occupants as they fled the scene, and all escaped harm.
Asked whether he believed the deputies were justified in returning gunfire at Ford, the elder Standish said: “Absolutely. There is no ifs, ands or buts about it. He meant business.”
Cutting said it was not known why Ford became so belligerent after his truck was caught up in the guide wire.
“I think he has issues,” the sheriff said, noting none of the occupants of the house has ever had any involvement with Ford.
Said Gail Standish: “I think he was drunk or high on something, but I’m not really sure.”
Cutting said several deputies who responded to the home took positions on either side of the driveway outside the trailer. They tried unsuccessfully to coax Ford to drop the weapon, he said. Meanwhile, the deputies succeeded in getting Ford’s son to walk to them.
However, the boy’s father defied the orders of deputies to turn around, Cutting said. Instead, Ford raised his .40 caliber Glock pistol and aimed it at the deputies, with his son standing nearby, prompting one of the officers to fire his duty weapon several times, the sheriff said. Cutting said one of his deputies would have been shot had the bullet not lodged in the door of his marked police cruiser. Another shot fired by Ford struck a State Police cruiser in the upper center of its windshield, the sheriff said.
Ford then advanced toward the police officers, pointing the handgun at them, and one of the deputies fired a patrol rifle at him, striking him in the upper torso and disabling him.
Cutting said Ford reloaded the handgun with fresh clips at least twice during the shooting spree. After officers rendered first aid to Ford at the scene, he was airlifted to the hospital in Syracuse, where he underwent emergency surgery.
Ford’s son was placed into the custody of his mother. Information on Ford’s Facebook page indicated he is enrolled in an online learning program that would lead to a master’s degree in military history from American Military University.
Following the shootout, the elder Standish said he suffered a stress attack and spent the night in Cortland Memorial Hospital. He was released Friday.
Cutting said had no immediate information on Ford’s employment status. He said Ford has a permit for the handgun and did not have any known criminal record.
Given the numerous bullets that flew during the night, Cutting said, he was very pleased that no innocent person was injured.
“So often you read about terrible tragedies,” he said. “Numerous rounds were fired, and the only serious injury was to him. This was really a great day for Chenango County.”