BUFFALO, N.Y. - A Facebook Live video published online Saturday afternoon shows a Buffalo Police SUV striking a man with a knife during a SWAT call, prompting the department's Internal Affairs Division to launch an immediate investigation into the officer's use of physical force.
The video, which was posted by a Facebook user named Sheila Woodard just after 12:30 p.m. Saturday, began with police officers surrounding a man in a red jacket near the intersection of Chicago and Fulton streets, just east of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.
After about two minutes, the video then shows a police SUV ramming into the man as he attempted to jump out of the way of the vehicle. Several officers then rushed to the scene, and about ten minutes later, they loaded the man into an ambulance to transport him to Erie County Medical Center. Police said he had non-life threatening injuries but was placed into police custody.
The video was removed from Facebook just after 8 p.m. Sunday, about 24 hours after the department had publicly acknowledged the internal investigation.
Tom Burton, the attorney representing the officer through the Police Benevolent Association, said his officer acted appropriately in order to protect the safety of a fellow officer. According to Burton, another officer not seen on camera in the Facebook Live video faced a specific threat from the man, who was wielding a 12-inch butcher knife.
Burton said the man with the knife was taunting that other officer and had also displayed suicidal tendencies.
"There's no hiding from what happened," Burton said. "This cop was motivated by preventing this fellow from hurting himself or anyone else."
Burton said his client is a veteran of the Buffalo Police Department. He has not been placed on leave.
Buffalo Police have not identified any of the officers involved in the incident. They also have not identified the subject struck by the police car.
Buffalo Police spokesperson Michael DeGeorge said the man with the knife was making threats of "deadly force" against officers. Although it remains unclear what prompted police to respond in the first place, DeGeorge said the incident began inside of a residence before escalating outside into the streets.
Burton said it's his understanding the man struck by the police car suffered an ankle injury.
The officer's use of his police vehicle in this situation was "unorthodox," Burton said, but he has seen the tactic used under rare circumstances during the course of his career.
Buffalo Police officers do not routinely carry Tasers, and Burton said officers in this case did not have them at their disposal. That policy stands in contrast to other local agencies, including the Niagara Falls Police Department, which has used Tasers for more than a decade and ordered a new batch as recently as this August.
"The Taser is an in-between alternative between physical force that might entail having to grapple with someone," Burton said. "One would think the Taser would have been an absolutely ideal alternative here."
Internal Affairs will investigate the incident as a use of force case, which are not especially common but do occur. According to the department's website, Internal Affairs tallied 17 such cases of physical use of force between Jan. 1, 2016 and June 30, 2016, the latest six-month period available. 2 On Your Side previously reported that use of force specifically involving weapons are exceedingly rare, according to a review of public records. Police officers have fired their weapons at suspects only a handful of times since 2011.
A spokesperson for the FBI's Buffalo Office said they had not seen the video until 2 On Your Side brought it to their attention on Sunday afternoon. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office has not yet responded to requests for comment.
Buffalo Police have also not responded to interview requests.
2 On Your Side received permission from the Facebook user to air the video and publish it to WGRZ.com. 2 On Your Side chose not to publish the audio due to obscene language.