Suspect shot dead after stabbing NYC cop in the back

By Charlie Specht

Source The Buffalo News, New York

Niagara Falls Mayor Robert M. Retaino on Monday defended his administration’s decision not to tell the public that city police shot a suspect for 29 hours, though he acknowledged it was far from ideal.

“There’s no doubt that in this incident we dug into some facts that were kind of unrelated. And so what we didn’t want to do is we didn’t want to come out with a set of facts that we were ultimately going to have to recant,” he said. “And so, yeah, it took a lot longer than we would have liked, and a lot longer than the public would like to know , but we wanted to make sure because it involves an officer-related shooting and we wanted to make sure we were accurate.”

More than three days had passed Monday afternoon since Niagara Falls police on Friday fatally shot a 29-year-old man who is now in critical condition at a Buffalo hospital.

But other than clarifying that the man attacked officers first, police and the mayor have provided little information to the public. Basic details, such as the names of those involved and whether the injured man has been charged with a crime, have not been released by Restaino’s administration.

Restaino said Monday he plans to hold a news conference about the shooting on Tuesday.

This pace contrasts with the speed with which other local police departments have provided information to the public in the wake of police-involved shootings. It may also be against industry best practices for disclosing information during controversial shoots.

After speaking at a tourism press conference on Monday afternoon, Restaino told a Buffalo News reporter that authorities were “still unpacking some things” and the investigation was continuing.

“I want to make sure that before we come in front of members of the media that we have all the information,” Restaino said.

What is known

What is known is that the shooting happened around 5 p.m. Friday.

At 10:44 p.m. Friday, a city spokesperson emailed news agencies saying that hours earlier police responded to an “ongoing domestic call” near Niagara Falls Boulevard and 80th Street. .

“When responding officers arrived,” she wrote, “one person pulled out a knife and stabbed an officer. At that point, officers on scene responded to the assault. officer was taken to a local hospital. The suspect was also transported to a local hospital.”

In the statement, police gave no indication that one of their officers shot the suspect or why the man needed to be taken to hospital.

On Saturday afternoon, Police Commissioner John Faso declined to comment on what happened the night before, telling a Buffalo News reporter that “all press inquiries must go through the public information officer at the Mayor Restaino”.

Ann Harenda, Restaino’s spokeswoman, sent a statement at 10:10 p.m. Saturday – about 29 hours after the incident – in which police acknowledged that officers “shot an armed suspect”.

While responding to a call for a suspicious person, the statement said “Officers approached a suspect behind the Rite Aid at 80th Street and Niagara Falls Blvd. During this interaction, the suspect attempted to walk away officers and refused to comply with orders. Officers used a taser, with no effect on the suspect.”

“At this point,” the statement continued, “the suspect pulled a knife from his pocket, charged officers and stabbed an officer in the back. The suspect then attacked a second officer, in which case others Officers fired at him. Officers on scene immediately began providing first aid until medical personnel arrived.”

The officer who was stabbed suffered minor injuries to the back and arm, police said, while the suspect – a 29-year-old man – was taken to Erie County Medical Center in critical condition.

The police statement did not name the suspect or the officers involved.

A Buffalo News reporter contacted city officials on Sunday, but neither Restaino nor Faso spoke about the shooting.

On Monday morning, Harenda sent another email to news outlets with an update that the suspect remains in critical condition and that two officers have been placed on administrative leave.

“We are not yet releasing the names of those involved due to the investigation,” the email reads.

Later that morning, Harenda said it was unclear whether the 29-year-old had been arrested or charged with a crime. She also said the races of the suspect and the officers were unclear.

A News reporter asked Harenda why releasing the names of the parties involved would hamper the internal investigation.

“Since this is a police-involved shooting, before we release too many specific details, we really want to make sure everything is according to the book,” she said.

Niagara County District Attorney Brian D. Seaman declined to comment on the case Monday.

‘Timely release’ builds public trust

Niagara Falls’ approach contrasts with other departments that have released information to the public after contentious encounters with police.

The day after Buffalo police shot and killed a knife-wielding man outside an apartment building on Hertel Avenue in March, the department released the names of the man who was shot and the officers involved. . Within four days, Buffalo police also released body camera footage of the incident.

In February, a state trooper shot and killed a man after a car chase ended in downtown Buffalo. State police released the man’s name two days after the incident, and the state attorney general’s office released body camera footage the following month.

Law enforcement guidelines on best practices for police-involved shootings encourage departments to make this information public as soon as possible.

A guide developed by the US Department of Justice and the International Association of Chiefs of Police states that a police shooting, particularly one that results in the death of a civilian or an officer, “generates interest and scrutiny among the media and the public. Additionally, the longer the law enforcement agency withholds this information, the more it appears the agency is protecting its own personnel at the expense of transparency within the community.”

The guide states that as soon as the preliminary results of an investigation are completed, “the investigator should then prepare a memo that provides the general facts of the incident. The department should post or distribute this memo to all staff as soon as as possible; as long as it does not compromise the investigation, he should also provide this information to the media.”

But law enforcement has not reached a consensus on exactly when the names of the officers should be released, the guide says. The “timely release” of names “serves to build public confidence in the investigation process and adds to the transparency and perceived integrity of the investigation.”

However, he acknowledges that the release of officers’ names “in this time of heightened police scrutiny and public dissent has also become a matter of greater concern for officer safety.”

Will AG investigate?

It’s also unclear if state Attorney General Letitia James will investigate the Niagara Falls shooting.

In April 2021, the AG established an Office of Special Investigations to investigate “any incident in which a police officer caused or reasonably could have caused the death of a person, whether the person was armed or unarmed, and the agent either on duty or not.”

Restaino said representatives from the AG’s office were at the scene Friday.

A spokesperson for James said in an email: “To the best of our knowledge, the individual is alive. Please note that we only have jurisdiction if a civilian dies.”

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