Thursday, 30 March 2023 13:30

Gunfight: The Charges Are In

Clip from City Camera located on the west side of Broadway at 3:03 a.m. on Nov. 20, 2022. The capture looks at the east side of Broadway leading north where activity occurred, and across to Caroline Street where officers have entered the scene. Screenshot from video: city of Saratoga Springs. Clip from City Camera located on the west side of Broadway at 3:03 a.m. on Nov. 20, 2022. The capture looks at the east side of Broadway leading north where activity occurred, and across to Caroline Street where officers have entered the scene. Screenshot from video: city of Saratoga Springs.

In the early morning hours on November 20, 2022, members of the Saratoga Springs Police Department responded to the sound of gunfire coming from Broadway. The officers involved were assigned to the downtown area, and were on foot on Caroline St at the time. Within seconds, the Officers confronted two individuals exchanging gunfire on Broadway in the heart of the City’s busy downtown area. –Saratoga Springs Police Department statement March 28, 2023. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A deputy sheriff was charged with attempted murder and three men from Utica with attempted assault in this week’s reveal of charges in connection with a November early morning incident in Saratoga Springs that saw approximately 20 bullets raining down on Broadway. 

Vito E. Caselnova, a Rutland County Vermont sheriff’s deputy and Glens Falls resident, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Saratoga County Court. The sealed indictment, unsealed in court, documented eight charges - five felonies, two misdemeanors, and one violation. 

The charges: attempted murder in the second-degree, assault in the first-degree, possession of a firearm in a sensitive location (that “sensitive location” in this instance believed to be carrying a firearm inside a place that serves alcohol), two counts of possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device, menacing, reckless endangerment, and harassment.

“There is a wide range of sentences the court could impose if you are convicted of that (attempted murder) charge or if you plead guilty of that charge, but the most severe sentence is a determinate term of up to 25 years in state prison,” Judge Jim Murphy said in the courtroom on March 28. 

Approximately two dozen people filled the public area of the courtroom. Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen was seated in the first row. Ten members of the media sat in the jury box, notebooks and cameras in hand. 

“Given the configuration of the indictment, it may be that some of those charges would run concurrently, or potentially consecutively if you were to be found guilty or if you were to plead guilty,” Judge Murphy told Caselnova. 

Caselnova, who sat mostly quiet while in the courtroom, pleaded not guilty to all counts. 

Bail was set at $50,000 cash, or $100,000 bail bond. Caselnova’s attorney, Greg Teresi, said that bail would be posted on Caselnova’s behalf at the correction facility. Caselnova, 25, was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom. 

During proceedings, an order of protection – effective immediately - was issued advising Caselnova to not have any contact, directly or indirectly, with Alexander Colon. 

Less than 24 hours later and across the county, Colon’s name as well as those of two others allegedly connected with the Nov. 20 incident appeared on documents at Saratoga Springs City Court. 

Court records indicate that the three people, all from Utica, were each charged with one count attempted assault in the third-degree, a misdemeanor, in connection with the incident. According to the prosecutor’s filings, the charge specifies each of the defendants “attempted to cause an injury to a person by repeatedly punching him.” 

Those charged are: Alexander Colon, 28, Darius A. Wright, 29, and Christopher (AKA Christian) E. Castillo, 28. The charges were assigned on March 23, according to court documents. All three were summoned to appear in person in Saratoga Springs City Court at 9 a.m. on April 25.

According to statements by Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino shortly after the Nov. 20 incident occurred, an altercation allegedly involving Caselnova - who was off-duty at the time - and “a group of individuals from the Utica area” was initiated on or around a Caroline Street bar before accelerating west and onto Broadway with approximately eight shots being fired. It is unclear how many weapons may have been involved, or who is suspected of firing first. 

City police officers subsequently responding to the incident fired approximately 11 shots after the off-duty deputy allegedly ignored calls to drop his weapon. 

“What they see is the Vermont sheriff’s deputy, standing on the sidewalk, his gun leveled and moving from side-to-side pointing the gun,” Montagnino said. “The officers repeatedly, loudly direct the deputy, ‘Drop the gun, get on the ground,’ again, again and again. By my count there are at least eight separate clear unequivocal demands to put the gun down and get on the ground. They are all ignored.” 

The incident marked the first discharge of a weapon in the line of duty by a Saratoga Springs officer in more than a quarter-century. 

City officers testified before the grand jury and waived immunity for their actions, according to a statement issued by PBA President Paul Veitch this week. “The Grand Jury decision to exonerate our officers confirms that they acted appropriately and justifiably during this stressful life-threatening situation.”

Caselnova suffered a number of wounds as a result of the incident and a woman believed to be his girlfriend was “nicked by one of the bullets in her upper arm,” Montagnino said. The woman, Glens Falls resident Cali Brown, filed the notice of claim against the city and police department signifying her intent to sue, the Daily Gazette in February. 

It is anticipated Caselnova will return to county court on May 2 at 9:30 a.m. for discovery compliance - the sharing of evidence in the matter.

Read 926 times