Video triggers investigation of cop conduct

Footage shows a white Buffalo police officer repeatedly punching black man in the face during a roadside tussle

A video showing a white Buffalo police officer repeatedly punching the face of a black man who was stopped for a traffic violation has gone viral on social media and triggered investigations by the Erie County District Attorney and the Police Department’s Internal Affairs office.

The video, which has been shared on Facebook more than 1,300 times, shows the officers wrestling with Quentin Suttles at the side of a car in an attempt to restrain him. The officer tells Suttles he’s “making it worse” on himself. The video shows Ronald J. Ammerman, a third-generation police officer and three-year veteran of the department, repeatedly punching Suttles in the face.

There is blood on the ground next to Suttles. 

Comments on the original post range from support for the arrest — one user writing “Why is he not just putting his hands behind his back?” — to strong criticism of the officers’ actions, including one woman writing that the video “makes me sick to my stomach. That poor man is bleeding out his face onto the pavement.”

Suttles, 30, was subsequently charged with five counts, including destroying evidence and resisting arrest. According to family members, he suffered a broken eye socket and a dislocated shoulder.

According to the police report obtained by Investigative Post, the incident started as a traffic stop. Ammerman and his partner, Michael Scheu, pulled over Suttles for driving the wrong way down a one-way street, according to the police report.

A police source told Investigative Post the two officers, who have a collective 10 years on the force, were driving down the street the correct way; essentially, they were facing Suttles head-on.  

The officers smelled marijuana when they pulled over the car, Scheu wrote in the report. A police source told Investigative Post that Suttles complied with the officers’ request to exit the car,  but tensed up when they began searching him.

He “did push off vehicle and fight with officers,” reads the report. 

That’s when the video posted to Facebook starts rolling, shot by a bystander.

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Sources told Investigative Post there is body camera footage of the event, but it is difficult to see some of it clearly because the officers are on top of Suttles during the altercation. 

“Under no circumstances are you allowed to resist arrest,” said Captain Jeff Rinaldo, a department spokesman.   

Suttles was released from police custody Monday after being arraigned. 

Family members waiting outside of the downtown Buffalo jail were in tears when they arrived to pick up Suttles, telling Investigative Post, “He didn’t do anything. He was there to celebrate Mother’s Day with us and this is what happened.” 

Late Monday, the Buffalo Police Advisory Board issued a press release calling on Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood and the Common Council’s Police Oversight Committee to investigate the incident. The board recommended the officers be removed from patrol duties pending the outcome of the investigation. Both Ammerman and Scheu remain on the job and in the field, according to police.

The advisory board also called for the police department to improve de-escalation training and its policy on the use of force.

“As Mayor of the City of Buffalo, a very diverse city, I am sensitive to any instances of conflict between members of our community and our police department,” Mayor Byron Brown said in a press statement. “Like others, I am concerned by what I saw on that video, however, I do not have all of the facts regarding this situation.”

The DA’s investigation will involve a review of all video and other evidence to determine if the use of force was necessary. 

“We’re investigating the incident, but cannot make any further comments about open cases,” said Kait Munro, a DA spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, the police department’s Internal Affairs office will do the same, and also review whether procedures and policies were followed during the event.

In 2017, an Investigative Post report found Internal Affairs cleared officers of wrongdoing in 94 percent of the cases it handles.

Suttles is being represented by Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo and has retained a civil lawyer, Michael Stuermer, from the law firm of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria.