Garry Kniffen, 56, of Kleinkill Drive in New Paltz, turned himself in to the New Paltz Police Department at approximately 5 p.m. on March 24 and was charged with one count of Assault in the Second Degree, a Class D felony and one count of Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, a class A Misdemeanor.
Four days earlier, Kniffen had allegedly been involved in an altercation at the Orale Mexico restaurant located on Old Route 299 in New Paltz where a weapon was discharged inside the bar striking a 59-year-old male. New Paltz police were dispatched to the restaurant at approximately 9:34 p.m. on March 20 in response to a 911 call reporting a shooting at the restaurant. According to New Paltz Police Chief Robert Lucchesi, the weapon that was allegedly discharged by Kniffen, and which struck the victim, was a semi-automatic handgun.
Asked why it took some time to apprehend Kniffen, Lucchesi said that “this was not a simple set of circumstances. We needed to interview all the available witnesses, process the crime scene and then review that information with the district’s attorney’s office so that we could bring forward the best case possible.” The chief did reiterate that they did not believe there was any danger to the public after the incident occurred and while it was being investigated.
The chief also noted that both men had “sustained injuries,” and were transported to Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital following the incident, although only the 59-year-old sustained a gunshot wound.
After Kniffen turned himself in on Wednesday evening, he was processed and arraigned before New Paltz Town Justice Rhett Weires. According to Lucchesi, Kniffen was “released on his own recognizance to appear at a later date.”
Asked why the suspect, who was involved in a shooting, would be released on their own recognizance without bail or jail time, Chief Lucchesi said “that’s not our purview. We do not have any input on that once we’ve delivered the suspect and leveled the charges. That’s in the hands of the courts and the district attorney’s office.”
New York State has passed bail reform laws which advocate for justices to use the least restrictive measures available to them to ensure that a person who has been charged with a crime returns to the court after their initial arraignment. It is not clear whether or not that was at play in the court’s determination on this case.
At the request of the New Paltz Police Department, the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office Pistol Permit Bureau “has suspended Kniffen’s pistol permit and his handguns have been seized by the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office pending a future hearing.”