John Willet, suspect kicked and slapped by cop, appears in court on charges.
BUFFALO, NY - As an internal affairs probe continues into the beating of a suspect at the hands of a Buffalo police officer, which was captured by a bystander and posted on the internet, Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita told WGRZ-TV he has offered the assistance of his office to the Commissioner of Police.
"We often will assist in investigations. For example we will provide advice, we will draft search warrants, we will cut subpoenas… sometimes we will even go out and help in the interviewing of witnesses and those kinds of things, said Sedita, who added that he first became aware of the situation when he saw a story on Channel 2 News Daybreak on Monday.
Sedita indicated that, for now, the investigation remains solely in the hands of the Buffalo police internal affairs division.
"Then if there's enough evidence the case is turned over to our office, or the U.S. Attorney's office depending on what the facts are and what the applicable laws are," Sedita said.
"The Buffalo Common Council does have subpoena powers and investigative powers," noted Common Council President Darius Pridgen. However, Pridgen says he's content for now to let the police do their investigation, and doubts lawmakers will get involved unless internal affairs comes back with a report saying there's no cause for action.
"We have video evidence, there are witnesses, so it's kind of hard to say that something did not occur."
The police department, thus far, has suspended one officer without pay in connection with the incident. A source identifies him as officer John Cirulli, who our source also identifies as the one seen on video kneeing, slapping, and kicking John Willet after subduing him on a sidewalk in the city's Riverside neighborhood on April 19.
In the complaint against Willet, sworn out by officer Cirulli, there are five other officers are named as having assisted in the arrest.
They are officers Nicholas Militello, Brian Griffin, LaMar McCulley, Mark Swaggert, and Dennis Gilbert.
Gilbert is also the popular football coach at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute.
Police brass have never officially released the names any of the six officers currently placed on leave... or stated publicly if they include any or all of those who were listed in the police report as being involved in the arrest.
Meanwhile, Pridgen says it has also gotten back to him that an officer on the scene may have asked the person who took the video of Willet being beaten to delete it, but that the photographer, anticipating that move, had switched phones with a friend, more or less bamboozling the police and preserving the video
"I hope what is added to this investigation, is the question about whether the officer actually asked for the bystander's telephone," said Pridgen. "I think that's important because if we do have officers out there who think it's okay to take someone's phone or to tell them what to delete, we have to address that."