Body cam footage released by police can be seen in the video player above; viewers are warned that the video is graphic in nature. A press conference held Friday by Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia can be seen below.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Buffalo Police released body camera footage Friday that showed what unfolded in the moments before a man said to be contemplating suicide was shot by an officer early last Saturday morning.
Officers responded to a call for a “suicidal male” who had ingested pills at 4:20 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 23. They entered the Tonawanda Street home and encountered a 36-year-old man in a third-floor attic who appeared to be holding a rifle to his head. When the man refused orders to drop the gun, an officer fired eight shots from close range, striking the man once in the shoulder/neck area.
News 4 is not identifying the man due to the nature of the mental health call. He remains in critical condition at ECMC as of Friday but is stable, police said.
The officer who fired his weapon, a five-year veteran, was placed on paid leave while the incident is investigated, which is standard protocol.
Police said the gun the man was holding was later determined to be a long pellet gun. A subsequent search of the home revealed the man was in possession of 12 illegal firearms, police said, and he was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, a Class C felony.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said in a press conference that the department’s Behavioral Health Team was not working at the time of the incident. According to their website, the team is only staffed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Gramaglia said he believed the man could have been trying to die in a “suicide by cop.”
“I think that was the intended purpose of the individual at the time,” Gramaglia said. “These situations are very tough, they are extremely challenging, they’re challenging for everyone involved, they’re extremely challenging for the officers that are responding and are confronted with that situation. We never want these situations to end like it did, with someone being shot. I don’t care what the scenario is, I don’t care if it’s involving a violent crime or a mental health situation, our officers don’t want to discharge their firearms. So it’s tough on everybody.”
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If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, help is available now. Erie County’s Crisis Hotline is available 24 hours a day: 716-834-3131. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24 hours a day: Simply call or text 988, or chat at 988lifeline.org. For more information, visit CrisisServices.org.
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Moment by moment account of the body cam video
As officers approached the house, a woman at the door asked permission to put their dog away. An officer asked his partner what someone on scene had just said. “He said he’s getting the gun,” one officer replied. “He said he’s getting the gun?” the first officer said. “Man, bust the [expletive] door open.”
As the officers waited outside for the dog to be restrained, they were told the alleged suicidal man was in the attic.
As officers moved through the house and approached the door to the attic, they instructed the man to come out with his hands up. “Buffalo Police!” an officer yelled. “Come out with your hands up!” The man said “No,” and the officer repeated the command two more times.
As officers climbed the stairs, they asked the man where he was in the attic. The man told police he was at the top of the stairs and that his girlfriend tore his pants off.
Officers shouted at the man repeatedly to drop his gun. The man repeatedly responded “No,” when instructed by police to drop the weapon.
An officer is heard telling other officers to “go over there.” Shortly after, the man appeared to tell police, “If you get closer, it’s gonna end.”
“Put the gun down!” officers respond.
“I told you no,” the man replied. He is then seen standing still and holding a long gun that appeared to be pointed at his head.
The man’s next quote is hard to hear, but he appeared to say, “You’re going to shoot me because I have a gun pointed to my head?”
An officer then told the man he’s going to shoot, to which the man responded, “OK.”
“Drop the [expletive] gun, now!” an officer yelled.
The man remained in the same position with his gun pointed at himself.
An officer then fired his gun eight times, causing the man to fall to the ground.
“Shots fired, shots fired!” an officer called over the radio.
“Oh my God,” an officer said to himself.
The duration of time from the first instruction for the man to come out with his hands up to the first shot fired was 48 seconds.
The man was taken by ambulance to ECMC, where he was listed in critical condition but was said to be stable. As of Friday, he remained in the same condition while in the trauma intensive care unit.
The incident remains under investigation by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office and the Buffalo Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division.
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Press conference from Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia
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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as the Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook, Twitter and Threads. See more of his work here.
Justin McMullen is a Western New York native who joined the News 4 team in 2023. You can read more of his work here.