Syracuse Police officers talk together for the first time since New Year’s Eve officer-involved shooting

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — For the first time, since the night they shot a 22-year-old man who came after them with a hatchet, Syracuse Police Officers Joseph LeBlanc and Brandon Hanks talked with NewsChannel 9 about what happened.

The officer-involved shooting occurred on New Year’s Eve on the 700 block of Grant Boulevard. 

According to Syracuse Police, Michael Viola, 22, of Syracuse, charged at officers with a hatchet when Officer LeBlanc and Officer Hanks shot at him.

Both officers have since returned to duty after being on administrative leave for a month. The grand jury cleared them of any wrongdoing and for that, they say they are grateful.

“Unfortunately, these tough decisions happen. It’s a tragic incident. It happens one percent or less,” Officer LeBlanc said. “Unfortunately, we’ve had three this year but the support from everybody, our families, friends, the community, everyone’s support. We’re just trying to go home at night. It’s important to us to do our jobs and take it in as tough decisions.”

Officer Hanks said, “It makes me appreciative of the training I received, the way we react to things and like I said, we have a split second to react to things and make some decisions that some people after us have plenty of time to sit and dissect. So, it makes me more appreciative of how well-trained we are.”

Officer Hanks grabbed local and national headlines by challenging kids to beat him at a game of one-on-one basketball. If he wins, they do push-ups. If they win, Hanks buys them sneakers.

He’s ready to pick up that challenge again, and kids are already lining up to play him.

Officer LeBlanc says he’s also gotten a lot of support from his family, community and fellow officers.

Viola was injured in the shooting and has since pleaded not guilty to charges of menacing a police officer and criminal possession of a weapon. He’s being held at the Onondaga County Justice Center awaiting trial. 

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