Was cabbie still alive when APD came by? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Was cabbie still alive when APD came by?

November 8, 2005

Albany-- Police say Officer Corey Johnson did what he should have when he responded to a call about a suspicious car Thursday night.

Officer Johnson drove through the Wadkins Avenue area in his patrol car and turned on his spotlight. But he didn't see a taxi where the driver had been stabbed, and it was 19 hours later that the man was found dead on the ground beside his cab.

The cab driver's wife is critical of police saying the officer should have gotten out of his patrol car and searched the area, that it may have saved her husband's life.

Albany Cab Company driver, J. M. King, who was stabbed while on the job Thursday night, apparently fought with his attacker, and that caused his cab to end up behind some houses on Wadkins Avenue.

A woman who lives in the area called police because she heard a loud noise. "The officer received the call," said APD Lt. Tracey Barnes. "For one, there was no description of any vehicle given. All that was said is that there's a suspicious vehicle in the area behind the homes. That's all that was reported to the dispatchers."

The officer, Corey Johnson, gave a statement to his superiors that said: "I responded to 404 Wadkins for an unknown noise problem. I made contact with a woman who states she thought she heard a vehicle behind her home... I pulled my car around to MLK over the curb all the way to the ridgeline. While driving, I turned on my spotlight and searched for any vehicles behind house which met with negative results."

The officer never got out of his car. APD's position is that not investigating on foot was OK. "Right now, the officer has done what he needed to do, so there are no actions being taken against the officer. There are none to substantiate anything. The officer did what he was supposed to," Barnes said.

But was it enough? Nearly 20 hours later, the man who made the initial call to police about a suspicious vehicle called dispatch again to inform them of a deceased person: J. M. King. He had been stabbed several times in the neck, and was found on the ground next to his taxi which had crashed into the woods, just beyond where Officer Johnson reports searching the night before.

When asked if he was worried that maybe the suspect or suspects had time to come back and retrieve a weapon or to cover something up, Barnes said: "I don't know anything about if the suspects had time to come back or what they did."

But Barnes doesn't think the time between the two calls will change the outcome of the investigation. "Any forensic evidence that's there, our officers will recover. Our crime scene unit will recover." And tapes of the conversation between dispatch and the complainant, as well as between dispatch and the officer may reveal more information.

WALB has filed an Open Records request to find out exactly what was said during conversations.

Lt. Barnes says right now, there are no suspects. The autopsy of J. M. King has not been finalized. Anyone with information on this murder is asked to contact the Albany Police Department.

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