Northwest District Police Officer Robert W. Yeates, a 26-year veteran of the city’s police force, was cleared Friday by an Erie County grand jury of any wrongdoing in the deadly shooting of a grandmother who fatally stabbed her 4-year-old grandson, then attempted to attack the officer last summer.
Yeates responded to the stabbing scene in Riverside the afternoon of Aug. 1 and the grandmother, Charlene Fears, 38, repeatedly advanced at him with two bloodstained butcher knives, prompting Yeates to act in self-defense, according to Thomas H. Burton, a Buffalo PBA lawyer who represents police in cases involving use of deadly force.
Fears had stabbed her grandson, Roderick “Manny” Geiger III, at the family’s home at 195 Esser Ave. Her neighbors described her as someone who struggled with mental illness.
“It was not disclosed initially, but it turned out that the motive behind this gut-wrenching event was a suicide-by-cop circumstance, which started with the little boy and ended when Officer Yeates had nowhere else to go,” Burton said.
Sources close to the case confirmed that the grandmother left behind a suicide note prior to stabbing her grandson.
“This event unwound like a bad horror movie, only it was real – terrifying to all concerned and deadly in its outcome,” said Burton, who added that the officer urged Fears seven times to drop the knives as she came toward him across the living room and into the front vestibule of the home.
“Even after she had been shot once, she took another swipe at the officer before collapsing from a second shot,” Burton said. “It will take some time for the image of the little boy to go away, but at least the grand jury gave Yeates a well-deserved outcome with its findings.”