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Six separate instances this year in which a Buffalo police officer fired a service weapon at a suspect all appear to be justified, at least from the considerable distance the public is able to view these cases.
In the most recent situation last week, an 18-year veteran of the force shot and wounded a Buffalo man who was holding a 9 mm handgun at the time.
Police were responding to a domestic assault call when the suspect, 19, pulled a handgun at the front door and then fled into the back yard.
One officer caught up with the suspect on Walden Avenue, where they then wrestled. The suspect refused to drop the gun and the officer ended up shooting the man in the thigh in self-defense, according to police officials and Thomas H. Burton, attorney for the Police Benevolent Association.
Thankfully, the man did not suffer a life-threatening injury and the officer escaped harm. In two earlier police shootings, one on Aug. 1, the other on May 27, the suspects were killed.
Six police shootings in a single year is atypical, when compared with the past few years. From 2009 to 2011, no more than one or two shootings involving on-duty officers occurred in the area's law enforcement agencies.
But Burton has said there's no rhyme or reason for the current cluster of shootings, because each situation is unique. And District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III and Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda also don't think the numbers represent a pattern or trend.
Officers can face danger at any moment during a shift, and in all of these shooting incidents, the officers had to make split-second decisions under extreme duress. It's not a position anyone would seek to be in.
The executive director of the Stop the Violence Coalition in Buffalo has said he'd like to see cops get more training on how to quell volatile situations without using deadly force.
It's a legitimate point to ponder, although we're not sure how well non-lethal weapons such as Tasers or beanbag guns or better negotiating skills would have worked in any of the six situations officers encountered this year.
What is necessary is a full accounting of the shootings. As it stands now, Burton, the PBA lawyer, often ends up being the primary source of information for what transpired during the shootings. But Burton, of course, represents the shooting officer's point of view.
The Police Department and the Erie County District Attorney's Office should be more forthcoming with regard to the details, and ultimately the findings, in these cases.
The closer view can go a long way toward erasing any doubt about whether a shooting was justifiable.