The state Attorney General's Office said Friday it will not bring charges against a Suffolk County police officer who shot and killed a man after they struggled on a residential street in Manorville last year.
Attorney General Letitia James' office said an investigation revealed that the man, Jesse Bonsignore, 44, had "repeatedly reached for his knife, attempted to take the officer's firearm and more than once threatened to kill the officer," according to an office statement.
The officer, James Skidmore, responded to a 911 call on May 20, 2021, of a man sleeping in the backseat of a parked car at 10:45 p.m. on Bauer Avenue, police said. When the officer knocked on the car window, Bonsignore awoke and began screaming and threatening to kill the officer, according to the attorney general's office.
The officer directed Bonsignore to remain in the car and called for backup over the radio, but Bonsignore got out of the car, the office said. Despite the officer’s attempts to assure Bonsignore that he was not in trouble, he continued to repeat to the officer that he was going to kill him, the office said.
The officer noticed a folding knife on Bonsignore’s waistband, which was later recovered at the scene, the office said. The officer then attempted to handcuff Bonsignore to prevent him from using the knife, at which point Bonsignore resisted and pushed backward against the officer, causing both to fall to the ground, the office said.
During the ensuing struggle, Bonsignore repeatedly attempted to grab his knife before reaching for the officer’s gun holster, the office said. The officer reported Bonsignore then grabbed the wrist of the hand in which the officer was holding the gun, and the officer, fearing for his life, shot Bonsignore, the office said.
Bonsignore was pronounced dead at the scene.
Bonsignore's last known address was in Commack, but investigators believe he was living in his car at the time of his death.
The attorney general's office said its investigation included interviews with responding officers and a person on the scene who called 911, as well as a review of video, crime scene evidence, photographs, radio transmissions and ballistics testing.
"Under New York’s justification law, a person may use deadly physical force to defend against the imminent use of deadly physical force by another," the office said.
Referring to the attorney general's Office of Special Investigation, the office said, "Based on the law and the evidence, OSI determined that criminal charges could not be pursued against the officer."
Skidmore was not equipped with a body-worn camera, and his patrol car did not have a dashboard camera, the office said. The office recommended that Suffolk County police equip all officers with body cameras.
Bonsignore's daughter, Carmela Bonsignore, filed a federal lawsuit earlier this year against Suffolk County, alleging her father was the victim of excessive force and a police department that has demonstrated a systematic failure to prevent police misconduct. Her attorney, Lori A. Marano, could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.
Suffolk police declined to comment because there is pending litigation.
Representatives for the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association, which represents the department's police officers, could not immediately comment.