Buffalo police officer won’t face charges in fatal shooting

December 3, 2018

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A Buffalo police officer will not face charges for fatally shooting an armed man during an early morning foot chase in September, according to a prosecutor who said Monday the man ignored repeated orders to drop his gun and was shot as he turned toward the officer.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn called the Sept. 12 shooting of Rafael Rivera, 32, justified. He said a three-month investigation took into account witness interviews, surveillance video, DNA and autopsy results.

“It is clear in this case that this was not a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ by the police officer,” Flynn said at a news conference.

Rivera’s parents have said they plan to sue the city and Flynn acknowledged they do not believe the account he laid out for reporters. He said he met with Rivera’s mother, father and five siblings earlier Monday.

“They’re angry at me,” he said. “They obviously think that what I said is not true.”

Two surveillance videos from a home and business, along with the recollections of witnesses and other officers supported the description of events by the officer who opened fire, Flynn said. But the strongest evidence, according to Flynn, was the unsolicited cooperation of a security guard who witnessed the events unfold from a parked car 10 feet from the officer.

The security guard described seeing Rivera, with a gun in his right hand, get up after tripping and turn toward the officer, who was shouting for him to put the gun down. Rivera was struck three times, in the front, back and by a bullet that grazed his forehead, Flynn said.

“We have an eyewitness who was cooperative, didn’t know anyone involved, had no relationship with anyone involved, freely came in on his own and told us exactly what he saw,” Flynn said.

Police found a loaded handgun with Rivera’s DNA near his body, Flynn said. A bag of marijuana and several hundred dollars were found on the body, he said, and an autopsy showed cocaine, marijuana and alcohol in his system.

Witnesses told investigators that the situation unfolded after Rivera brandished a gun on the porch of a Buffalo home and threatened his girlfriend and several other people over $9,000 in missing drug money. When one of the people called 911, Rivera fled on foot. He was shot by the first officer to arrive at the scene.

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