A deadly officer involved shooting Wednesday morning on Buffalo’s West Side was captured on videotape, sources have told News 4, and the images very clearly support police claims the use of lethal force was justified.
The shooting took place in the parking lot of the former P.S. 77, on Plymouth Avenue, that left Rafael Rivera, 32, of Buffalo mortally wounded.
A surveillance camera is mounted on the building, now owned by PUSH Buffalo, overlooking the parking lot which a source close to the police department, and an attorney for the Buffalo police officers’ union say the camera caught nearly all of the incident.
The tragic episode started with a 911 call to police of “a man with a gun,” and shortly after three Buffalo police officers arrived at Plymouth and Massachusetts avenues, our sources said Rivera took off running east along Plymouth.
Rivera, the sources said, fell in the parking lot at PUSH Buffalo and ended up at storm drain grate, all the time holding a gun.
Despite the police ordering the suspect to put the gun down, the video, the officers on the scene, and a witness said the suspect got up, started to run away–again still holding the gun–and an officer identified as Elnur Karadzhaev, shot the suspect three times, one of those fatally.
Thomas Burton, a Buffalo attorney who represents Buffalo’s Police Benevolent Association insists the shooting was justified because Rivera was armed and capable of hurting others, including the police.
“He’s got this gun in his hand, with his finger behind the trigger guard, on the trigger. My guy is covering with a weapon, telling him to drop it, drop it, drop it. The guy goes to get up, my guy perceives that he is going to shoot him, and he unloads on the guy.”
Burton said Ofc. Karadzhaev’s use of deadly force is covered under Article 35 of New York State Penal Law, in protecting his life and the lives of others, from what he perceives as an imminent threat–in this case a suspect fleeing with a gun.
“The question is, whether the use of deadly physical force is necessary to defend a cop, or someone else, from what the officer reasonably believes–not what happened, but what he reasonably believes–simply to be the use, or even imminent use, of deadly force.”
Buffalo police have not released a copy of the surveillance video, pending their departmental probe of the incident.
The Erie County District Attorney’s office is conducting a separate investigation of its own.