BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — For almost 30 minutes on March 29, Buffalo Police officers chased Kente Bell through multiple neighborhoods, home-lined streets and even towns before the pursuit ended in a hail of gunfire.
On Friday, the Buffalo Police Department released a series of body camera videos showing what officers saw while responding to the high-speed chase that began because Bell had tinted windows and a lapsed registration. It resulted in a shootout and three officers being hit by gunfire.
“They just shot our car. Did you hear that?” Officer Nagy said in the video while following Bell.
The suspect and police were firing from moving vehicles.
“If you watch the video, it just looks like a chaotic scene that’s uncontrolled at some points,” former Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo said. “Again, it doesn’t take into effect what those officers were perceiving, what they were seeing, what they were hearing.”
The newly released body camera video is 32 minutes long and shows footage from more than 10 officers’ cameras.
The chase began at the foot of W. Ferry Street, and spanned many neighborhoods on Buffalo’s East and West Sides. It continued on Niagara Street to Military Road, onto Rt. 198 and Rt. 33, on Bailey Avenue and Genesee Street, then to Jefferson Avenue, before it concluded at the intersection of E. Ferry Street and Fillmore Avenue. Part of the pursuit extended into Cheektowaga.
“He is firing at any officer who is coming close,” officers said during the chaotic chase.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia says the pursuit should not have even happened.
“In that case, that should have stopped right there. That should not have continued on,” he said at a Friday afternoon press conference.
Other law enforcement experts disagree. Rinaldo questions when it became a pursuit and he says Buffalo Police protocol does not specify what constitutes as a chase.
“I think the initial attempt of those officers to regain control of that stop is probably justifiable,” Rinaldo said.
Bell’s female passenger jumped out of the moving car at Military Road and Glor Street. Officers stopped and picked her up before continuing the pursuit. Rinaldo said those officers should have stopped chasing Bell.
“They’re going to secure that person. To then continue the pursuit with that person in the car, its definitely not in protocol,” Rinaldo said.
Rinaldo also said officers were justified in firing out of their cars while driving, even though Officer Christopher Wilson was wounded when his partner tried to fire at Bell through the windshield. On Wednesday, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn revealed that two of the officers who were shot were hit by friendly fire.
“Stop, stop, stop. I’m hit. I am. I’m hit,” Officer Wilson said in body camera video.
Both Commissioner Gramaglia and Rinaldo agree that officers need more training with firearms and in high-stress situations.
“For the second largest police department in New York State to have one day a week to train almost 800 people in firearms, it’s definitely not sufficient,” Rinaldo added. “I think the overall grade for BPD is a B+.”
Commissioner Gramaglia said in a press conference the March 29 situation will be utilized in figuring out how training of officers can be improved and changed going forward and how some officers can be re-trained.
“We have a simulator that we are putting together — a new form of more reality-based training where they can engage in these scenario-based areas to help improve upon that,” Gramaglia said.
In all, 16 Buffalo police officers fired their weapons. No pedestrians were struck. Body cameras from nine of those 16 officers were released by the Buffalo Police Department, Gramaglia said Friday.
The suspect, Kente Bell, who was shot approximately three to four times, is undergoing rehabilitation at ECMC. He faces five counts of attempted murder, along with one count each of criminal possession of a weapon, unlawful fleeing of a police officer in a motor vehicle and reckless endangerment.
The 28-year-old could spend up to 40 years to life in prison if convicted of the highest charges against him.
DA Flynn did not charge any Buffalo Police officers. Bell has pleaded not guilty.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.