CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Cheektowaga Police believe three teachers had inappropriate telephone conversations with then-murder suspect Dontre Jones, and that those conversations interfered with the police investigation.
Now those teachers are on paid administrative leave as the school district investigates. Early this week, Cheektowaga Police Chief David Zack called for a news conference Thursday for the purpose of playing audiotapes of conversations between the teachers and Jones, who has now been convicted of first-degree manslaughter.
But the town's legal team has told Chief Zack he has to wait.
"I'm very frustrated by that," he said.
The police chief wants parents in the Cheektowaga Central School District to hear what the three teachers told Jones, after he called them at school from the Erie County Holding Center as he awaited trial for murder.
Chief Zack says what the teachers told Jones was extremely inappropriate and even hurt the police investigation.
"There's not a real fine line here. The line wasn't brushed up against. It was crossed over," he said.
Kevin Shelby, a lawyer for one of the teachers, is threatening to sue if Cheektowaga Police reveal their identities. So for now, Chief Zack is reluctantly biting his tongue on the details.
Chief Zack says the police department has been building a solid relationship with Cheektowaga Central for the last 20 years.
"Those things, this is when they matter, those relationships, when you have an incident like this. This is when those relationships are supposed to pay off. And they did not," Chief Zack said.
In fact, Chief Zack says they failed miserably.
But there is another side to the story. Shelby says the teachers are being railroaded. He calls the content of the phone calls "vanilla" - that Jones was reaching out to people he respects and views as role models.
Chief Zack says in his opinion, the teachers should be fired. But it's up to the school board.
And there is another twist in this case. Two members of the school board, Brian Gould and Paul Nazzarett, are Cheektowaga Police officers. Shelby calls it a big conflict.
News 4 reached Gould by phone, who said he and Nazzarett are not using their positions to get behind the scenes information. And if he disagrees with his boss, Chief Zack, he would feel comfortable enough walking down the hall to explain to him why.
The police chief says the murder investigation that ended with the conviction of Jones took hundreds of man hours. And he's angry that in his view, three teachers could have derailed it.
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