The Shots Heard Around Buffalo’s East Side

By Cariol Horne #CariolsLaw and Myles Carter IG @myles4sheriff

photo above: Video footage from local surveillance cameras show Buffalo Police firing 4 rounds out of their vehicle while speeding down Genesee St., near the intersection of Forman Ave.

March was a high point in Buffalo for police involved shootings.  On the morning of March 14th, Buffalo Police responded to a call and arrived to find a man by the name of Domique Thomas with a knife.  Ultimately Thomas was shot 6 times, as he is seen on camera running towards the police officers.  Absent in that encounter was the Buffalo Behavioral Health Team, tasers, or Bolla Wraps, all of which came on the heels of continued protests and rallies all over Buffalo for police accountability and safety.

 People throughout the city were in a panic on March 29, 2022, when a high-speed chase ripped through Buffalo’s East Side in what many described as sounding  like a drive by shooting.  Members of the community want to know what Buffalo Police could have done differently to avoid turning their community into a war zone.  It is unknown why the Buffalo officers felt justified in the high-speed chase that ensued,  as the Buffalo Police Manual states, “pursuit shall not be initiated if the reason for the attempted stop is only for Vehicle Traffic Law (VTL) violations, misdemeanors, or other non-violent felonies.”

According to the press conference held by Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, the chase started at the foot of West Ferry Street, where  two  female police officers approached the parked vehicle of Kente Bell around 5:58 p.m. to inquire about his tinted windows.  The officers asked Bell for his license, he complied with their request, and they apparently found an issue with his registration.  When they asked Bell to exit the vehicle, according to Flynn, Bell responded to let them know he was physically handicapped from the waist down and uses walking crutches. 

Flynn went on to describe the events that ensued quickly thereafter.  He stated that Bell took off down Niagara St., turned on Tonawanda St., went down Military Rd. and turned down Austin St.  It was on Austin St., where it was said that the female passenger accompanying Bell, jumped out of the moving vehicle, and where Flynn said the first shots were fired, stating that it was “crystal clear” that Bell fired upon the police officers. There was no ballistics or real physical evidence that was released to substantiate Flynn’s claims.  He went  on to say that Bell was pursued down Niagara St. towards the 198, where police had set up a roadblock using their vehicles.  According to Flynn, somehow Bell blew through the roadblock and was able to enter the 198.  He continued through the 198 to the 33 East Bound, where it appears there were no other shots fired.

Flynn said that Bell exited highway 33 at Bailey Ave. on Buffalo’s east side and shots were fired again, Officer Sheehan was said to have been shot in his upper bicep and had his ear grazed by a bullet near the intersection of Bailey and Langfield at roughly 6:07 p.m.  The chase continues south down Bailey Ave and they turn down Walden Ave going towards Cheektowaga, turning north on Pine Ridge Rd. and down Genesee towards Buffalo.  Flynn states the second officer is shot near the corner of Genesee St. and Doat St. at roughly 6:12 p.m., failing to mention the numerous shots that were fired by Buffalo Police down Genesee St. while engaged in the pursuit.  

Video footage from local surveillance cameras show Buffalo Police firing 4 rounds out of their vehicle while speeding down Genesee St., near the intersection of Forman Ave. Freeze frames of the footage was taken and the smoke from the gunshots corresponds to the police vehicle as the shots are heard in the footage.  Within seconds of the second officer being shot at 6:12p.m. the Duty Officer called off the chase, stating “cut the pursuit, cut the pursuit, too many injured.”  However, the responding  officers ignored the command and continued to pursue Bell for at least 14 more minutes.

Continuing down Genesee Street, they turn down Jefferson and go down East Ferry Street where they stop just short of Fillmore Ave. near the C District police station.  Bell remained in his vehicle the entire time, unable to exit easily due to his pre-existing physical handicap, when the officers opened fire.  In a Facebook live video, you can see a female cop take cover behind a vehicle when she opens fire on Bell.  The rest of the video offers no footage of the shooting as the camera person takes cover, but it’s clear that there are multiple shots coming from multiple people in a literal hail of gun fire.  

The pursuit ended with Bell being shot multiple times and a total of three officers shot.  Bell was transported to the hospital. It was said that a gun was recovered from his person, possessing an extended magazine.  DA Flynn was unable to confirm if the gun was used in the shootout, as it was damaged and rendered unusable, not knowing whether this was a result of the hail of shots fired by BPD.  Although the chase began on the West side and continued throughout the city, shots were blatantly discharged by Police on the city’s east side with no regard for human life.  On the video shot from a gas station, you can see a man fall back in the driver’s seat of a vehicle parked at the gas pump.  The person taking the video ducked behind gas pumps and you see cops firing upon Bell’s vehicle after it had crashed.  Amidst the gun fire and erratic actions of the Buffalo Police during this pursuit, and the recovered gun being rendered “unusable,” it poses the question – Did the police shoot themselves?

It has been over three  weeks since the near deadly shoot out that began at the foot of Ferry on Buffalo’s west side and ended at Fillmore and Ferry, across the street from Buffalo Police C District station.  The details of what happened are still not very clear to the public, but we do know three police officers were treated at ECMC for gunshot wounds, along with Bell, the young man who was driving the vehicle that led the police around Buffalo.  This would be the second police involved shooting in the month of March, both of which Flynn worked immediately to clear the police involved as quickly as possible.  Both incidents could have been avoided had the resources and policies of the Buffalo Police Department been utilized.  

Today Bell faces three counts of attempted murder in the first degree and one count of possession of an illegal firearm in the second degree. He was arraigned on these charges along with violation of his probation from his bed at ECMC.  DA Flynn has made it clear that Bell will be prosecuted on these charges, even if the bullets that hit the officers came from other officers.  

According to Flynn, Bell fired the first shots on Austin St., and the police continued to pursue him thereafter.  However, there are no accounts of opening fire on Bell at the roadblock on Niagara St. on Buffalo’s gentrified West Side, or on the 198 that scrolls along wealthy Nottingham Terrace.  The accounts of police fire are in a speeding police vehicle down Genesee St., and hundreds of police rounds fired on Fillmore and East Ferry St. at the heart of Buffalo’s East Side.  What steps are being taken by Buffalo Police Commissioner Gramaglia, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, Mayor Brown and the Buffalo Common Council to avoid this type of careless regard for human life on Buffalo’s East Side?