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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ex-Girlfriend of Cop Recalls Terror of Gun Threat

Ex-girlfriend of Albany cop recalls terror of gun threat
The Albany Times Union by Brendan J. Lyons - February 9, 2011
Former girlfriend of Albany cop recalls terror of gun threat

ALBANY, NY -- The former girlfriend of an Albany police officer testified Tuesday that he held her face down on the floor of his Albany residence two years ago and threatened to kill her while grinding the barrel of a loaded handgun against her skull. Barbara Waters said her former boyfriend, Officer Robert L. Schunk, later threatened in a voicemail message to kill her and her young son if she told anyone about the incident or jeopardized his job. Waters cried while recounting the alleged assault during the first day of testimony at Schunk's criminal trial in Albany County Court. Schunk, 39, a 12-year veteran of the Albany police force, is on trial for felony and misdemeanor charges as the department seeks to fire him. He is accused of assaulting Waters with his departmental handgun, holding her against her will and shoving her down a flight of stairs as she tried to end their relationship on Jan. 4, 2009. Waters, 37, said Schunk held her on the floor with his knee in her back and she prayed for help from her father, who had recently died. "He told me he was going to kill me," she said. "He kept calling me whore, bitch .... I don't even know if I could hear what he was completely saying the whole time. I was praying to my dad to stop him." Schunk sat motionless at the defense table as Waters spoke. His neck and head flushed bright red as Waters' voice cracked and she described a terrifying ordeal that she said lasted about 90 minutes. The encounter turned violent, Waters said, when Schunk shoved her down a flight of stairs as she started to leave without the belongings she had gone to his residence to retrieve. She had gone there to break up with Schunk as a result of his jealousy and rage, she said. Schunk's attorney, Cheryl Coleman, during a grueling cross-examination that lasted almost two hours, questioned Waters about why she had waited more than a year to report the incident, and only after her own arrest in Albany last April on charges she "trashed" Schunk's residence. Coleman, through questioning, suggested Waters and her estranged husband, Steven, had concocted the story so Waters could get out of her criminal case. But Waters corrected Coleman when the defense attorney noted Waters had never told police about the incident until last year. Waters said a female Glenville police officer came to her home a couple days after the 2009 incident and that Waters told her what happened. The Glenville officer responded to the residence after Steven Waters called 911 in a panic because his wife, who was in a bath, would not answer the telephone. Waters testified that she and Schunk reunited after the gun incident and entered therapy. "I loved him," she testified.

Steven Waters, the last of five witnesses called by special prosecutor Lyn A. Murphy, testified that his wife called him on her cell phone minutes after she bolted from Schunk's house the night of the incident and that she was extremely distraught. When Waters arrived home, he said, "she was shaking, kind of in a rocking motion. ... I felt on her right side of her head, slightly towards the back, a lump." He said his wife's legs and arms were covered with bruises. Ten days later, Waters went to a doctor's office and reported her injuries and what happened to a physician's assistant, Karen Kasarda, who testified about treating Waters for the injuries. Waters testified that at one point during the incident she fled into the bedroom of Schunk's daughter, who was not home, and tried to escape out a window while screaming for help. Schunk pulled her back, she said, and placed his handgun, which was loaded, on the daughter's dresser. "I was petrified," she testified. "I thought he was going to kill me. ... He just kept saying you're never going to leave me." Officer Christian Mesley, president of the Albany Police Officers Union, testified that he drove Schunk home to meet with Waters the night of the incident. Mesley said that before leaving, and while Schunk and Waters argued in a car outside, he took Schunk's loaded service weapon off a kitchen counter and disabled it by removing internal parts. Mesley said he put the magazine back in the weapon, with 11 rounds inside, and placed the gun back on the counter after hiding the gun parts in the house. Schunk did not know the weapon was inoperable when he held it to Waters' head, the prosecutor said. Murphy, a Saratoga County assistant district attorney, told jurors in her opening statement to listen carefully to Waters' testimony about how Schunk allegedly looked curiously at the weapon before "putting it back to her head." "Draw your own conclusions as to what was going on there," Murphy told the panel. "The defendant let Ms. Waters up and said do what you got to do. She fled for her life." Judge Stephen W. Herrick is presiding. Coleman, the defense attorney, said she will call several Albany officers to testify Wednesday. Three of the officers were involved in arresting Waters last April. Herrick has not allowed the jury to hear evidence about other documented domestic violence incidents involving Schunk. That includes criminal charges filed against him last April for allegations he attacked Waters at her Halfmoon apartment in a jealous rage. Hours later, Waters was arrested in Albany after breaking into Schunk's residence to retrieve belongings and allegedly damaging his property. James Lyman, a former Albany detective and executive director of Council 82, which is the umbrella union for the Albany police union, also testified Tuesday. Lyman said he went to Mesley's house the night of the incident when Schunk showed up there emotionally distressed and that he had been drinking. Lyman said he and Mesley drove Schunk home and that he saw Mesley disable Schunk's gun before they left as the couple argued. Brendan J. Lyons can be reached at 454-5547 or by e-mail at

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