Paul A. Olson, the North Collins man convicted of killing Erie County Sheriff's Deputy Robert S. Insalaco, has died of natural causes in state prison, where he was serving a lengthy sentence.
Olson, 65, died last week after collapsing beside his bed at Wende Correctional Facility in Alden just moments after complaining he felt ill, Michael Houston, spokesman for the state Department of Correctional Services, said Tuesday.
Olson shot Insalaco at point-blank range when the deputy and Senior Investigator Vincent Pupo Jr. went to his Jennings Road house to serve an arrest warrant at about 2 p.m. Aug. 13, 1987.
At Olson's trial, Pupo testified that Olson was "completely naked" and had a "smile of contempt" upon his face when he jumped out from behind a door and fired a single bullet, striking Insalaco between the eyes.
Insalaco, 42, had no chance to reach for his holstered gun before Olson attacked the two sheriff's officers, who were attempting to arrest him on a 14-month-old charge of felony criminal mischief linked to damage to a neighbor's tractor.
Pupo returned fire and struck Olson twice in the abdomen, causing him to retreat into his house. While the investigator tried to help Insalaco, Olson returned and fired again at Pupo, who took cover behind Olson's two cars.
The officers had been warned that Olson was mentally unstable before they arrived at the house, and Insalaco was wearing a bulletproof vest.
Richard Barnes, the attorney who represented Olson, said his client killed Insalaco because of insane fears that led him to live like a hermit. Those fears, Barnes said, included Olson's belief that he would be killed by Lebanese terrorists who had killed his son, a Marine Corps private, in 1983.
Olson was sentenced to 25 years to life, but he received an additional 2 1/2 -to-5-year sentence after he was convicted of throwing a mixture of feces and urine at a state corrections worker on June 25, 1997, at Great Meadow Correctional Facility near Albany.
The feces-throwing episode was part of a long list of prison incidents involving Olson. State officials said he had been disciplined at least 32 other times for misconduct.
In July 1997, authorities said Olson sent a threatening letter to the Hamburg home of then-State Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco, who prosecuted his murder case as a member of the Erie County district attorney's office. The letter, which upset Vacco and his family, suggested "eliminating" lawyers.
Olson was pronounced dead at 4:55 p.m. Dec. 20 after the medical staff at Wende was unable to revive him.
"He was sitting on the side of his bed and he informed the corrections officer he did not feel well. The officer went for help, and when they returned he was collapsed on the floor," Houston said.