on May 15, 2014 - 7:39 PM
, updated May 16, 2014 at 12:56 PM
An Air National Guardsman was badly beaten in a University Heights bar over the weekend and deposited nearly dead outside, according to police sources.
To make matters worse, the attack may have been witnessed by two off-duty Buffalo police officers who had worked security outside Molly’s Pub at 3199 Main St. earlier in the night and then stayed around inside the bar following their security shifts.
Homicide detectives, internal affairs investigators and FBI agents are probing the brutal beating of William C. Sager Jr., 28, a crew chief at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station who was applying to become a state trooper and was to be married in July.
Sager, who hails from Silver Creek, lies gravely injured with a devastating brain injury in Erie County Medical Center’s intensive care unit. Police sources told The Buffalo News that his chances for recovery are poor. A man with a financial interest in the bar is considered a suspect, according to a source familiar with the inquiries.
“It just makes me sick to think of what he went through,” said Shirley Sager, William Sager’s grandmother.
Investigators already have determined that the off-duty officers had nothing to do with the attack at the popular nightspot for college students near the University at Buffalo South Campus.
But among the questions still unanswered: Did the off-duty officers witness the beating?
If they did, did they take action to stop it or help Sager?
The FBI has joined the probe into Sager’s beating – when contacted by high-ranking Buffalo police officials – to determine whether civil rights were violated.
Sager was out Saturday night for a stag party thrown for a co-worker from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. As the night progressed, some members of the group went their separate ways, but Sager was among a few who ventured into Molly’s.
For Sager, 2014 was a momentous year. He bought a house in Newfane. He would be married in just a couple of months. He scored well on an exam to become a state trooper, said one of his friends, who was not at the party.
But shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday, some kind of a confrontation erupted inside the bar. Sager was pummeled and kicked and thrown outside, sources told The News. Near lifeless, he was found a short distance from the bar, closer to Winspear Avenue.
At the hospital, family and friends are at his bedside. His father sounded weary and drained when The News reached him at ECMC this week. But William Sager Sr. said he could not comment on the matter.
One police source said the episode heaps another embarrassment onto the Buffalo Police Department – just weeks after news broke in April that an officer punched and kicked a handcuffed defendant as he lay on a city street. That abuse might have slipped quietly away had a citizen’s cellphone video not gone viral.
Amid public outrage, Police Chief Daniel Derenda placed six officers on administrative leave and then suspended Officer John A. Cirulli without pay. Cirulli is the patrolman seen punching and kicking the handcuffed John T. Willet, 22. Federal agents joined that investigation to determine whether police participated in a civil rights violation.
Public records indicate that Molly’s Pub is operated by NHJB Inc. and that Norman Habib holds the liquor license, according to the State Liquor Authority. Habib, not considered a suspect in Sager’s beating, did not return a telephone message left at the bar Thursday.