BUFFALO, NY- In his first public comments on the fatal shooting of a man by Buffalo police on Sunday, Erie County District Attorney John said there are significant questions surrounding the assertion by the city’s police department that the suspect first shot an officer before he was wounded by return fire.
However, while Flynn launched an initial investigation into the matter, it’s a case that Flynn no longer has jurisdiction over.
The initial report from police was that Jose Hernandez Rossy got combative during a traffic stop, produced a gun, and shot off part of Officer Joseph Acquino's ear, after which, Acquino's partner, Officer Justin Tedesco, shot and killed Rossy.
“After the course of our investigation over the past 48 hours, significant questions now exist whether that's true," Flynn told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday morning.
But with the State Attorney General now having taken over the investigation, under an executive order from the governor which gives the AG jurisdiction when a police encounter ends in the death of an unarmed civilian, or where there are significant questions as to whether the civilian was armed, it effectively took the took Erie County DA off the case
“Out of respect for the investigation and the State Attorney General’s office, I am not going to talk about any of those matters,” Said Flynn. “But I will say one thing. Based upon what I learned so far, Officer Aquino believed he was shot and the Buffalo Police Department had no reason to think otherwise initially."
A source familiar with the state investigation says it was prompted by witness claims that Rossy did not have a gun, and the inability of the police to produce one, despite three days of searching.
Police continued their search on Wednesday, deploying a helicopter to hover over the neighborhood in Black Rock to assist them.
Flynn also revealed that Buffalo Police, as well as informing him, notified the State Attorney General’s office of the incident on Sunday night.
“This city’s police department, and my office believe the more communication the better,” said Mayor Byron Brown, when asked why – if police were certain that Rossy was armed and shot the officer- the department contacted the Attorney General.
Since the incident, witnesses have told WGRZ that Rossy, after initially being pulled over on Garfield Street, attempted to take off in his car, with Acquino sticking his head into the vehicle to grab the wheel and try and control it, before it veered off the street, through some bushes, coming to rest against a house where the vehicle’s airbag deployed.
Rossy was then shot during a struggle with officers.
A source tells the Buffalo News that Acquino's blood was found on the airbag, leading to the possibility that his ear was ripped off by the airbag, and that he might not have been shot at all.
"That’s all under investigation right now,” said Mayor Brown. “It’s being looked at to determine if it was a gun shot or something else."
On Monday, Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda stated without qualification that Rossy shot Officer Acquino.
On Wednesday a police department spokesperson said that the Commissioner made his assertion based upon the information he had at the time, which was less than 24 hours after the incident occurred.