Five years ago, Edson Thevenin, 37, was shot and killed by Troy, New York police sergeant Randy French after a car chase. In August 2021, the city of Troy reached a $1.55 million settlement in the case, but with no admission of fault or liability. French had shot Thevenin eight times.
The Car Chase
On April 17, 2016, French attempted to stop drunken driving suspect Thevenin in the early morning hours. Although Thevenin initially pulled over for French, he failed a field sobriety test. He then took off, almost running French down. In making his escape, Thevenin performed an illegal U-turn and ended up colliding with a barricade.
French and Captain Matthew Montanino, who responded to French’s call for assistance, then tried to box Thevenin in with their police cars. According to police, Thevenin backed into Montanino’s vehicle. He then pinned French between his own cruiser and Thevenin’s automobile. That is when French fired eight shots into Thevenin’s windshield.
From start to finish, the entire incident lasted approximately 12 minutes. It ended just .2 miles from where it began.
A report commissioned by the Troy City Council and released in 2019 contradicts the report issued by the Troy Police Department’s (TPD) internal affairs. The police report concluded that French lied about the details of the shooting.
French alleged that he was pinned between Thevenin’s car and the police vehicle when he started shooting. Still, a New York State Attorney General’s report stated that French’s account did not match the forensic evidence.
The AG’s report notes that, from the outset, the position of the TPD was that French’s left leg was pinned between the vehicles, and he was in fear of his life, therefore justifying the shooting. The evidence, however, showed that the bullets were fired from different points in front of Thevenin’s car, which disputes the notion that French was immobile.
The TDP did not obtain the names of two of the three witnesses to the shooting, simply telling them to go away. A third witness contradicted French’s account when interviewed by the AG’s Office, but the TPD never interviewed that witness thoroughly. The TDP failed to conduct critical forensic analyses before declaring that French’s actions were justified.
The AG’s investigation determined that witnesses could not corroborate French’s assertion that he was pinned before he started firing. One witness stopped at a nearby red light, said French started firing immediately after Thevenin’s car hit Montanino’s vehicle. Even Montanino did not say that French began firing after being pinned down.
The AG’s report concludes that the TPD prejudged the investigation’s outcome in declaring the shooting was justified. The police chief held a press conference the following day in which he stated that French fired only after being pinned down. He added that the TPD fully supported French.
The TPD did not inform Thevenin’s family about the nature of his death. They were told only that he died in a car accident. It was only after arriving at the hospital that they learned he had been shot. The family’s first information regarding the shooting’s details came from the press conference.
Troy police officers were not equipped with body cameras at the time. The need for body cameras was an issue discussed in the city council’s report.
French is no longer with the Troy Police Department.