OLEAN — Gunshots rang out. A man was hit. Uninjured but stunned, Olean Police Department patrolman James Marcellin grabbed the wounded property manager, who was there to serve an eviction notice, and pulled him to safety.
Local and state law enforcement unions recently honored Marcellin for his valor at the outset of an armed standoff with police March 22 on Buffalo Street. Marcellin, 52, who began his career at OPD in 1988, was given a plaque and a letter of commendation at the Dempsey Club’s annual raffle drawing Sunday.
“The awards themselves were a surprise,” Marcellin told the Times Herald on Thursday. “I wasn’t expecting them. … It was greatly appreciated.”
Local property caretaker Steve Bryer, then 61, survived after being shot in the left shoulder that Tuesday morning with a 7.62x39mm round from an SKS, a semiautomatic rifle similar in style and power to variations of the AK-47. The alleged shooter, Christopher T. Beach, then 43, had refused to be evicted from 927 Buffalo St., Apt. A. He finally surrendered about seven hours later, after police emergency-response teams had cordoned off nearby blocks and tossed several smoke grenades inside the small, lower-level apartment.
“While my back was to the door, that’s when he fired off I don’t know how many shots. All I heard was ‘pop, pop, pop,’” said Marcellin, who’s affectionately nicknamed “Junior.” “I turned back around and saw that the property manager’s sweatshirt was ripped, and I saw some blood coming through it. I don’t know if I said it out loud or if I thought it: ‘Are you shot?’
“To this day, I don’t know exactly what I did next. I just remember us up against the dumpster taking cover.”
City Marshal Richard Cousins also was present and unharmed.
Fellow patrolman Mark Slavinski, who is president of the police union local 967, emphasized how quickly routine matters can spiral out of control.
“You can train for that situation every day, but just when you least expect it is when something happens,” Slavinski said Thursday. “Then you’ve got to respond immediately to a threat. Patrolman Marcellin took action. He took cover for the apartment manager that was wounded, rendered first aid until he could get him to the medics on the fire department.”
Beach is now in a psychiatric unit and is awaiting further evaluation before trial, Cattaraugus County District Attorney Lori Rieman said. He pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault, a class B felony; and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a class C felony.
“A lot of people did a lot of good work that day to keep people from being injured and to send him to jail,” Marcellin said, adding he doesn’t consider his actions heroic.
Greg Carey, representing the statewide Council 82 law enforcement union, acknowledged the dangers facing police daily.
“I think it was a well-deserved award, and I’m proud that his local union stood up and gave recognition to one of their own,” Carey, a retired Olean police investigator, said Thursday. “People have to realize in this day and age, when these men and women go out and put that badge on their chest, they’re also painting a target on their chests and foreheads for these people that defy the law that want to ambush them.”
Council 82 represents 4,800 members across New York, including municipal police officers, corrections officers, sheriff’s deputies and private security staffers.
(Contact City Editor Kelsey Boudin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @KelseyMBoudi