BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — On Friday, the Buffalo Police Department released a series of graphic body camera videos showing what officers saw while responding to a high-speed chase this past March that resulted in three officers being hit by gunfire.
The lengthy chase stretched across numerous Buffalo highways and briefly into Cheektowaga. On Wednesday, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn revealed that two of the officers who were shot were hit by friendly fire. The D.A.’s Office also cleared officers of any criminal wrongdoing, although he did say that some officers lacked common sense during the chase.
The suspect, Kente Bell, who was shot 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 chase started after Bell was pulled over in Broderick Park for tinted windows. A female passenger jumped out of the car shortly thereafter, who was picked up by police and put into a patrol car, with officers continuing to pursue with that woman inside.
“That is not within our pursuit policy and the pursuit at that point should not have been engaged,” said Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.
The 28-year-old could spend up to 40 years to life in prison if convicted of the highest charges against him.
Gramaglia spoke on the matter Friday afternoon, saying 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.
The District Attorney’s Office says Officer Christopher Wilson was hit by friendly fire, when his partner shot through a windshield and a bullet possibly ricocheted and his Wilson in his bulletproof vest.
“There is a serious violation of police procedure where a police officer was operating his car and at the same time discharging his weapon, that’s completely ill-advised, it’s completely something that you’re trained not to do,” said attorney John Elmore, a former New York State trooper, who responded to the video.
But Gramaglia says officers can shoot in these situations if they’re being shot at. Gramaglia also raised concern over how the chase began, with only motor vehicle infractions. He says he approved the chase continuing because of the threat to the community.
The D.A.’s Office says Officer Joseph McCarthy was shot by friendly fire, but Gramaglia says there’s no forensic evidence to support this.
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.
“Hindsight is 20/20, based upon the investigation and the comments of John Flynn it’s apparent that some of the police officers did violate police procedure,” Elmore said, “Hopefully that can be rectified with training in the future.”
WATCH | See the body camera videos here.
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Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.