BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said his office did not charge the recently indicted bounty hunter with any felonies because the guns used during the January raid have not been recovered.
“I have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they were in fact real guns and they were operable,” Flynn said.
“I have no guns. None of the guns were ever recovered.”
Secondly, Flynn said prosecutors considered a felony burglary charge against Dennis J. White, 35, of Buffalo, but they do not have enough evidence to prove he intended to commit a crime.
“Because if you break into someone’s home with the intention to commit a crime there in the home, it could be burglary,” Flynn said.
“He clearly broke into someone’s home, alright? But he didn’t intend to commit a crime in the house. He intended to go find a person that he thought he had legal authority to do.”
White is charged with 10 misdemeanors:
- Two counts of criminal trespass in the second degree for allegedly entering the two homes in the duplex on Oakdale Place in the Seneca-Babcock community.
- Four counts of menacing in the second degree for allegedly pointing what appeared to be a shotgun or rifle at four adults.
- Three counts of endangering the welfare of children who were inside the homes during the raid.
- One count of criminal mischief in the fourth degree for alleged damage to an upstairs door.
White pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He faces a maximum sentence of a year in jail.
In January, White and a second, unknown person raided a duplex on Oakdale Place in the Seneca Babcock community with long-guns drawn on the homeowner’s family and the upstairs tenants. White did not have an active license to operate as a bounty hunter, also called bail enforcement agents, Flynn said.
They were looking for the homeowner’s brother, who skipped a court date in Pennsylvania on a $5,000 bond for misdemeanors. But the suspect was not there, and he has never lived there.
Flynn said the wanted man did not provide his brother’s Oakdale Place address on the bond paperwork, and even if he did, Flynn doubts bounty hunters would have a legal right to enter the home without a search warrant issued to the Buffalo Police Department.
Indeed, Jake Reinhardt, the owner of the duplex, can be heard on audio from the surveillance camera and police body-camera footage demanding the bounty hunters and the city police officers present a search warrant. They did not present one, although at least one officer and White claimed a search warrant was executed, according to the audio.
Flynn said no search warrant had ever been executed for the house.
The incident is the subject of a federal lawsuit against the city, several police officers, the bounty hunters and others. The lawsuit alleges that city police officers worked jointly with the bounty hunters and illegally searched sections of the home attached to a front porch and a rear vestibule.
As for the second bounty hunter, Flynn said he has not been charged because prosecutors are not sure about his identity.
“We think we know who it is,” Flynn said.
“But we can’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, and it appears that they may have had their own names on the badges. We don’t definitely know that because you really can’t see it that well. But we have reason to believe from past experiences with these two that they had their own names on the badges.”
Dan Telvock is an award-winning investigative producer and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of his work here.