Surveillance video from the scene of last week’s deadly officer-involved shooting on Buffalo’s West Side seems to support police claims deadly force was necessary to protect public safety.
A Buffalo police officer shot Rafael Rivera, 32, three times as he was trying to run from police, who were responding to a 911 call of “man with a gun.”
Video of the shooting was recorded by a surveillance camera mounted on the side of a building owned by PUSH Buffalo at 429 Plymouth Avenue, formerly Public School 77.
The video and recording equipment were turned over to authorities who are investigating the incident.
Attorney Steve Cohen of Hogan Willig Attorneys at Law allowed News 4 to screen a copy of the video, which PUSH Buffalo provided to Rivera’s family. The video itself is not being released.
The video shows Rivera running east on Plymouth Avenue, and tripping over a curb as he reaches the PUSH Buffalo parking lot.
Rivera crawls toward a sewer grate and seems to be fumbling with a gun, just as one of three Buffalo police officers flanks Rivera on his right side and sees what appears to be a gun in his hand.
There is no audio on the video tape, but a recording of police radio calls reveals officers ordered Rivera to put the gun down, but Rivera gets up and just as he starts to run, Ofc. Elnur Karadshaev shoots Rivera three times.
At about the exact moment Rivera goes down, a small dark shiny object appears on the ground about 8 feet from Rivera, and the object appears to be a gun. Police recovered a 9mm semiautomatic handgun at the scene.
But Cohen, the lawyer for Rivera’s family contends, Rivera was not threatening anyone, even though he might have been carrying a gun in his hand..
“He gave no indication that he was going to shoot anybody. There is not even an allegation that he said he was going to shoot someone.”
But attorney Tom Burton, who represents the Buffalo police officers’ union said, holding the gun and refusing police orders to drop it were the key factors in the use of deadly force.
“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.”
The Erie County District Attorney and the Buffalo Police Department’s Division of Internal Affairs are investigating last week’s fatal shooting.
If Rivera had been unarmed, the New York Office of Attorney General, by executive order, would be investigating, but after reviewing the case, the Attorney General has declined to take up the case.