Earlier this week, The Challenger — Buffalo’s leading African-American newspaper — published an article describing the March 29 police chase that started as a routine traffic stop at the foot of West Ferry and ended on the city’s East Side, with police surrounding and firing into the vehicle driven by 28-year-old Kente Bell.
It was a wild chase, according to the account Erie County District Attorney John Flynn provided the media, lasting half an hour and stretching the breadth of the city, with shots fired by both Bell and police. Three officers and Bell were wounded by gunfire.
“Nine police cars were riddled with bullets,” the Buffalo News reported, as was Bell’s vehicle. “Nineteen separate crime scenes needed to be examined.”
“It was a miracle nobody died,” Joseph Gramaglia, the city’s new police commissioner, told The News.
The Challenger article raises issues with the narrative provided by Flynn and Gramaglia, which is not surprising, given its authors are two outspoken critics of policing in Buffalo: Cariol Horne and Myles Carter.
Horne is a former Buffalo cop who lost her job and her pension after she stopped a fellow officer choking a handcuffed suspect in 2006. In 2020, the city adopted “Cariol’s Law,” affirming an officer’s duty to intervene when another officer uses excessive force. Last year, a state court decision restored her pension and awarded her back pay.
In their article, Horne and Carter describe a brief segment of the chase captured by a surveillance camera on Genesee Street, which seems to show police in the lead pursuit car firing from their moving vehicle at Bell’s moving vehicle ahead of them.
The department’s manual of procedures forbids officers shooting “from or at a moving vehicle or its occupants unless the occupants of the other vehicle are using deadly physical force against you or another person by means other than the vehicle.”
Even in that case, “they are not allowed to do so recklessly.”
To Horne and Carter, the surveillance video is evidence of “careless regard for human life on Buffalo’s East Side.”
Horne and Carter note that most of the shooting Flynn and the department described — like the shooting in the video — took place on the city’s predominantly poor and African-American East Side.
“[T]here 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,” they wrote.
“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?”
According to Flynn and Gramaglia, Bell fired the first shots on Austin Street, in the city’s Black Rock neighborhood. From there, Bell blew through a police barricade on Niagara Street, jumped on the 198 eastbound, then the 33, exited at Bailey Avenue, then turned westbound on Genesee.
Police continued to chase Bell down Genesee, even as a duty officer ordered them by radio to “cut the pursuit, cut the pursuit, too many injured.” The chase ended in a vacant lot near East Ferry and Fillmore Avenue.
Police originally approached Bell’s parked vehicle because it had tinted windows. He is now charged with three counts of attempted murder and possession of an illegal firearm.
Read The Challenger story here.