on January 11, 2014 - 9:29 PM
, updated January 12, 2014 at 5:31 AM
Amherst police responded to a 911 call early Wednesday morning at the Williamsville home of WBEN talk show host Tom Bauerle, who told officers he was under surveillance by operatives of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the situation.
Two police sources, who did not want to be identified because Amherst officials have not released reports on the incident, said officers took a licensed, loaded, semi-automatic handgun from Bauerle when they encountered him in his backyard as he claimed a suspicious person was spying on him. The two sources also said the radio host personally summoned police and then consented to a voluntary psychiatric evaluation later that day at Erie County Medical Center after police contacted Crisis Services about their concerns.
No charges have been filed against Bauerle. He did not return phone calls that began Friday and continued Saturday. WBEN managers, after repeated requests for comment that began Thursday night, said Saturday they had no comment.
But officers and neighbors told The Buffalo News they have become concerned about Bauerle’s behavior.
“He’s out there searching his yard with a loaded gun,” one law enforcement official said. From a police standpoint, “that is a cause for concern.”
Three neighbors said a neighborhood meeting was held last Sunday so that Bauerle could talk about his fears about surveillance around his home, but they described his fears about the surveillance as “quirky” and “made you scratch your head.”
Bauerle’s fears and suspicions about surveillance occur at a time when he has been on the air, criticizing the governor for sponsoring the new gun control laws in New York State and accusing Cuomo of seeking retribution.
“Do not underestimate the venom of Andrew Cuomo and his minions,” Bauerle said on his radio show Dec. 31. “He will attempt to destroy anyone who gets in his way.”
Amherst police have been dispatched to Bauerle’s home numerous times in recent weeks, two police sources said. One source counted 13 times since Nov. 18.
Though police confiscated the handgun he was carrying on Wednesday, Bauerle objected to a police request that he turn over any other guns he owns, two police sources said. Instead, he agreed to put his other weapons in the hands of his attorney.
While Amherst police officials have refused so far to release a report on the Wednesday incident, Town Attorney Thomas E. Jones did confirm it exists.
Bauerle, 50, was absent from the airwaves on Wednesday and Thursday, when he regularly hosts a talk show from 3 to 7 p.m. But he returned on Friday afternoon and explained his absence stemmed from hitting a “physical wall of exhaustion.”
“I’ve been very, very exhausted lately,” he said on WBEN Friday. “There have been a number of things I’ve had to deal with healthwise. I honestly had to catch up on sleep and get my head in the game.
“I was just exhausted,” he added.
The Buffalo News began making inquiries with WBEN on Thursday, seeking to learn if station management had any concerns about Bauerle. The News continued those phone calls to the station on Friday and Saturday, but received no call back until after 4 p.m. Saturday.
At that time, The News informed Operations Manager Tim Wenger and Kevin Geary, director of corporate communications for WBEN’s parent Entercom Communications, about the content of this story, including concerns expressed by police and neighbors about Bauerle. The News asked whether the station executives had any concerns about Bauerle and inquired why the first hour of Bauerle’s show from Dec. 30, which was extremely critical of Cuomo, was not on its website.
Geary declined to comment for this story.
Meanwhile, one law enforcement source identified James D. Tresmond of Hamburg as Bauerle’s attorney, but Tresmond also did not return several calls seeking comment.
Officials of the Cuomo administration offered no comment, either.
The News filed a Freedom of Information request with the Amherst Police Department on Friday, seeking its report on the Wednesday incident after police officials denied its release. The News then contacted Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein, who referred questions to Jones, the town attorney.
Jones acknowledged receiving the police report The News was seeking and said he usually favors disclosure of such documents, but was not ready to release the report until early this week.
“We need time to take a look at it because of some sensitivities,” Jones said.
During the height of the blizzard descending upon Amherst and Western New York early Wednesday, Bauerle called 911 at about 2:50 a.m. to report the suspicious person, according to two police sources in a position to know Amherst police investigations. Officers responded but found no one in the vicinity.
After an officer told Bauerle that he could not find any footprints in the snow – which would have indicated someone had been walking through his backyard – Bauerle told the officer that government operatives have special shoes that leave no prints in the snow, one of the law enforcement officials said.
At one point on Wednesday morning, Bauerle pointed at a tree and told an officer that the tree was a human being, the one source said. The officer, according to the police source, hit the tree with his night stick to show Bauerle that it was not a human being.
Crisis Services officials were called because police wanted to make sure Bauerle was not a danger to himself or anyone else, the police source said.
Bauerle’s brother, Dick Bauerle, told The News Friday he had no inkling that his brother has had any incidents at his home prompting involvement with Amherst police. He said he was unaware that police were called to his brother’s home last week.
He said he spoke to Tom Bauerle on the telephone around 7 p.m. Thursday, and said his brother told him he would be back on the job Friday afternoon.
Tom Bauerle told him on the phone that he caught “a little touch of the flu” during the blizzard and explained that the flu was the reason he had missed his afternoon radio shift on Thursday, Dick Bauerle said.
“What you’re telling me comes as a great surprise to me, as far as I know,” said Dick Bauerle, who sells advertising for the same media group that employs his brother. “I heard him on the blizzard coverage and he was brilliant.”
The News contacted the Amherst Police Department Thursday night, and an officer confirmed that officers were summoned to Bauerle’s home and that he consented to the evaluation.
While two police sources said that Amherst officers have been called to Bauerle’s residence several times in recent weeks, one of those sources said his neighbors placed most of the calls.
“He has been having delusions that someone is watching him, conducting surveillance on him,” one police source said. “He has cameras around his house.”
Officers who responded to the calls have repeatedly checked the neighborhood and told Bauerle they found no evidence of anyone conducting surveillance on him, police sources said.
The radio host told officers that he believes he is being watched “by operatives for Gov. Cuomo” because of his repeated criticisms of the SAFE Act, law enforcement sources said.
The News interviewed three neighbors along Bauerle’s street on Saturday who said they were aware of police visits to Bauerle’s home. They talked on the condition of anonymity because they like Bauerle, get along with him and do not want to damage their relations with him.
But they also said they have become concerned about him after he sent them several emails warning of what he considered intrusion into his property. They said they convened a neighborhood meeting last Sunday night that took place over approximately 45 minutes to allow him to air his concerns.
“The underlying theme was his concerns that people were watching him or coming into the neighborhood,” one neighbor said. “We just gave him a forum to say what was happening and what we could do to help.
“But he said it was about Gov. Cuomo,” the neighbor added.
Bauerle’s fear of Cuomo
During a broadcast Dec. 30, Bauerle criticized Cuomo and said some people considered him “a threat to the Cuomo administration.”
“Andrew Cuomo is a mentally ill, vindictive little man, and he employs cowards,” Bauerle said.
Bauerle claimed on his show that people were watching him at his home and, in an effort to protect himself, he had hired experts in surveillance and combat to protect him. Bauerle estimated that those watching him had spent $40,000 per day in their effort. And while Bauerle was unclear as to who is conducting the surveillance, he seemed convinced that it was a result of his opposition to the NY SAFE Act.
“Most disturbing, I am kind of afraid they’re trying to get me to shoot one of them so they can say: ‘See, guns are bad. See, this is why we have the SAFE Act,’ ” Bauerle said.
While audios of previous afternoon shows of Bauerle can be found on the station’s website, the first hour of Dec. 30 show that includes these fears and criticisms is not on the site.
The News, however, was able to obtain a copy. The station managers were asked why that hour was not on the site, but did not respond.
Bauerle has been a strong advocate of gun rights and an opponent of Cuomo’s SAFE Act. He promoted on the air and participated in an anti-SAFE Act rally outside the Capitol in Albany last year.
Also according to WBEN’s website, Bauerle is a University at Buffalo alumnus who joined WGR radio after graduation and began hosting for WBEN in 2002.
The site said he focuses on the “War on Terror and national security,” among other issues, and is “known as a tough interviewer with eclectic interests and a rambunctious sense of humor.”