Law enforcement agencies throughout Albany County responded to shots fired from inside Crossgates Mall. (Photo by Michael Allen)
Our staff of writers scrutinized through 52 weeks worth of news, and with the aid of internet traffic, we were able to determine which stories mattered to you most last year.
Inside, you will find the Top Five stories that had the largest impact upon our readers. These are the stories that captured your attention, and in many cases, you shared with friends and family over social media. In the end, these are the subjects that reached out to more readers than any other.
#5 Crossgates Locked Down Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016
GUILDERLAND – Reports of an active shooter at Crossgates Mall, one of the largest malls in the United States, was immediately followed by the unprecedented response by hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies throughout the Capital District.
The mall quickly went into lockdown, with both shoppers and employees instructed to shelter in place after police received a call for shots fired near the Apple store on the mall’s first floor at approximately 2:20 p.m. Saturday afternoon, Nov. 12.
One mall employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told SpotlightNews that he “heard a loud crack.”
“Everybody sort of had a collective realization that it was probably a gun shot because it seemed too loud to have been anything else,” he said.
The employee recalled seeing some smoke before he and other employees ran towards the back of the store because they weren’t sure whether or not the suspect was shooting into the store. He said that employees were led out of the store through the back and out of the mall into the parking lot.
According to the employee, none of the people who were near the front of the store saw what happened. However, he said his manager saw the security footage of the alleged incident, and confirmed that one shot was fired.
“It was all very chaotic,” he said.
Nearly seven hours after initial reports of the incident, some employees and shoppers remained inside the mall as law enforcement agencies continued to canvass the mall’s 1.7 million square feet of retail space.
It would be two days later when Albany and Guilderland police arrested 20-year-old Tasheem M. Maeweather, of 474 North Pearl St. in Albany, at a car wash in Albany. He was later arraigned and charged with the felonies of reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon.
#4 Owner Pinned on Charges Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016
ELSMERE — Bethlehem Police found itself measuring the impact of the news surrounding Del Lanes owner Marvin Sontz’s arrest for allegedly possessing and sending child pornography to a minor after its ongoing investigation.
Sontz, 61, was arrested on Tuesday, Dec. 20, after police received a complaint. A town resident whose juvenile child allegedly received a pornographic image through a social media sharing site, said Commander Adam Hornick at a press conference held the following day. After receiving the complaint, Hornick said, an immediate investigation was launched, and police were able to trace the images to Sontz. Sontz was arrested after interviews and the execution of a search warrant.
Hornick urged worried parents to reach out to police and cautioned against allowing the actions of one individual to cast a shadow over what has been community center for over 50 years.
Sontz was formerly a paid boys’ bowling coach at the Bethlehem Central School District, most recently during the 2014-15 season.
Sontz faces several years in state prison with felony counts of disseminating indecent material to minors in the first degree and possessing a sexual performance by a child, as well as one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child.
#3 BC’s Lab School Scrutinized Friday, May. 13, 2016
DELMAR — The disciplinary action taken against Bethlehem Central’s high school principal brought to light the alarming details of a 2014 audit of its unique Lab School program.
The Lab School is described as a “school within a school,” with more than 100 students enrolled through grade 9 and 12.
The QUESTARIII audit concluded with an outline of nearly a dozen recommendations for change once it was published the following July. Several of the recommendations addressed matters where the program failed to follow basic bookkeeping practices for deposits and expenditures surrounding its field trip funds.
Bethlehem Central High School Principal Scott Landry has maintained his innocence, claiming that he had done nothing wrong by sending solicitations for his consulting services. In a mutual agreement between himself and the school district, Landry submitted his resignation, which will take effect on June 30, 2017.
#2 DPW thwarts burglary Friday, Oct. 21, 2016
DELMAR — A longtime town highway worker, Mike Vasto, called police at around 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 21, to report someone breaking a front window of a home at 500 Delaware Ave.
Police responded immediately and spotted the suspect, 45-year-old Michael Rozell of Delmar, running from the residence. He was apprehended after a brief foot chase, and charged with two felonies and a host of misdemeanors.
Rozell was sent to the Albany County Jail on $50,000 bail. He was charged with a felony for burglarizing the Paxwood Road home, and another felony for attempting to burglarize the Delaware Avenue home. He was also charged with a host of misdemeanors.
#1 Bender Lane Fatality Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016
ELSMERE —Tommy Brown, a graduate of Bethlehem Central High School, was popular among car aficionados around the world.
Brown’s “baby” was his silver Subaru Impreza WRX with hot purple wheels. The 20-year-old was active in car clubs, which would meet at the Wal Mart parking lot in Glenmont, during which members would show off the modifications made on their respective cars.
He was also known to speed. On a Facebook comment he posted on his account Thursday, Nov. 17, he stated that if he received another ticket, he would have “a total of 10 or 11 tickets to take care of.”
At a few minutes before 3 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19, Brown re-posted a meme focused on his apparent passion for driving, stating, “Me: I’m gonna drive normal today. Inner Me: Hit boost and redline every gear.”
Approximately a half hour later, Bethlehem emergency responders attended to a one-car crash at the intersection of Bender and Stonewall lanes in Delmar.
“I have been covering crashes for over 25 years, and I don’t ever remember seeing a crash with such devastation,” said Thomas Heffernan, Sr., a freelance photographer who captures automobile accidents on his camera. “Just unbelievable.”
Responding members of the Bethlehem Police Department, Elsmere Fire Department and Delmar-Bethlehem EMS quickly extricated Brown from what remained of his car. Investigators were quick to determine that speed played a factor in the one-car accident. Bethlehem Police said Brown was traveling northbound on Bender Lane before he lost control, left the roadway and crashed into several trees.
Brown was declared dead shortly after arriving at Albany Medical Center Hospital.