An unnamed Buffalo (NY) police officer’s actions are now going viral after he used his department vehicle to hit and disable a combative man armed with a butcher knife.
A Facebook Live video published online Saturday afternoon shows a Buffalo Police SUV striking a man with a knife during a SWAT call, prompting the department’s Internal Affairs Division to launch an immediate investigation into the officer’s use of physical force.
The video, which was posted by a Facebook user named Sheila Woodard just after 12:30 p.m. Saturday, began with police officers surrounding a man in a red jacket near the intersection of Chicago and Fulton streets, just east of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.
After about two minutes, the video then shows a police SUV ramming into the man as he attempted to jump out of the way of the vehicle. Several officers then rushed to the scene, and about ten minutes later, they loaded the man into an ambulance to transport him to Erie County Medical Center. Police said he had non-life threatening injuries but was placed into police custody.
The video was removed from Facebook just after 8 p.m. Sunday, about 24 hours after the department had publicly acknowledged the internal investigation.
Tom Burton, the attorney representing the officer through the Police Benevolent Association, said his officer acted appropriately in order to protect the safety of a fellow officer. According to Burton, another officer not seen on camera in the Facebook Live video faced a specific threat from the man, who was wielding a 12-inch butcher knife.
Here’s the video of the incident.
Buffalo’s officers are not armed with tasers, which makes perfect sense, when you think about it: it’s bitterly cold there in “South Canada” much of the year, meaning that people are bundled up in heavy coats and multiple layers rendering tasers useless. Their probes cannot penetrate all that clothing to the skin and deliver an electrical charge.
The unnamed suspect had apparently threatened to harm himself and police officers, and according to the attorney of the officer driving the SUV, the suspect was walking towards a fellow officer.
If this is accurate, and tasers are not on the table, then the officer had the choices of:
- going “hands on” with a knife-armed suspect, which is suicidal
- attempting to use a baton or chemical spray, which also exposes the officer to a very high degree of risk
- using the SUV to immobilize the suspect
- shooting him with a department issued firearm
If the suspect was indeed walking towards an officer on foot, the officer in the SUV made the best of a bad situation and likely kept the officer on foot from having to shoot the man.
A broken ankle seems like a much better outcome for the suspect than a chest full of bullets.
The use of a vehicle to ram an armed suspect and bring them into custody is hardly new.
Marana (AZ) police officer Michael “Robocop” Rapiejko spectacularly ended the rampage of a rifle-armed suspect in April of 2016 by ramming him with his cruiser.
Sometimes using a vehicle is a correct use-of-force option.