City of Buffalo reaches settlement agreement with estate of Craig Lehner

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The estate of Buffalo Police Lieutenant Craig Lehner and the City of Buffalo have reached a tentative $1.275 million settlement agreement, the attorney representing Lehner’s sister told News 4.

The Buffalo Common Council’s Claims Committee approved the settlement at its meeting Wednesday morning. It will now go to the full council for a vote, which is expected to happen next week.

Lehner went missing on October 13, 2017, four years to the day that the committee vote took place, during a training exercise in the Niagara River. His body was found days later.

Donna Wilson, Lehner’s sister, filed a lawsuit in 2018, claiming that among other things, the city failed to develop a standard operating procedure which addressed strategies and tactics for the type of training exercise Lehner was performing and failed to evaluate the risk of the training exercise. The suit also said the city didn’t provide the proper equipment. In its response to the lawsuit, the city denied those claims.

Aaron Glazer, the attorney for his sister, says the family has found peace knowing that their claim has created a safer work environment for Buffalo police divers.

“The term hero gets tossed around a lot in our society, but Lieutenant Lehner was a hero in the flesh. The Lehner family has been through more tragedy than most people could imagine, and the resolution of this claim brings an extremely sad chapter of their lives to a close,” Glazer said.

Councilman Mitch Nowakowski, the chairman of the Claims Committee, said the council hopes the claim provides a “form of conclusion” to the family. He noted avoiding a trial and the pain a trial would cause was an important consideration.

“We know that money is nothing in replacement of a human life,” Nowakowski said.

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.

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