New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office of Special Investigation (OSI) today released its report on the death of Brandi Baida of Auburn. Following a thorough and comprehensive investigation, including interviews, surveillance and cell phone videos, radio transmissions, and ballistics testing, OSI concluded the evidence does not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the shooting of Ms. Baida by a member of the Auburn Police Department (APD) was a crime. In addition, OSI recommends that APD accelerate its efforts to equip its officers with body-worn cameras (BWCs).
On the morning of September 21, 2021, 911 calls regarding an active shooter brought members of APD to a residential neighborhood in Auburn. A neighbor told an arriving officer that gunshots were coming from 12 Wheeler Street. Officers then saw and heard multiple shots fired in various directions from a second-floor window at that address, endangering the lives of the responding officers, nearby residents, and pedestrians. After the shooter ignored numerous commands to stop shooting and drop the weapon, an officer fired, striking the shooter and causing her death. The shooter was later identified as Ms. Baida. Officers later recovered the rifle that Ms. Baida had used along with multiple rounds of additional ammunition.
Under New York law, to convict a person of a crime when the defense of justification is raised, the burden is on the prosecution to disprove justification beyond a reasonable doubt. Justification includes using deadly physical force to defend oneself or others against another person’s use of deadly physical force. In this case, Ms. Baida was actively shooting a deadly weapon from a second-floor window onto a residential street, endangering the lives of police officers and civilians, while ignoring commands to stop. In these circumstances, a prosecutor would not be able to disprove that APD officers were justified in using deadly physical force to end the threat.
At the time of this incident, APD did not equip its officers with BWCs, which are critical to transparency, accountability, and safety. While APD has taken steps to obtain BWCs for its officers, OSI recommends the department accelerate its efforts.
“Our office reviews every case thoroughly and transparently in the pursuit of justice,” said Attorney General James. “Based on an extensive review of the evidence and facts in this case, my office determined that the officer was justified in his use of force because he had a reasonable belief that it was necessary in order to protect himself, his colleagues, and the public from harm. Nonetheless, Ms. Baida’s death was a tragedy, and I offer my condolences to the Baida family.”