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Buffalo Police release bodycam footage in Kente Bell case

Kente Bell is charged with five counts of attempted murder of a police officer following a police chase in March.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Police have released bodycam footage of a police-involved shooting from March 29, 2022.

Kente Bell, who is partially paralyzed from a previous shooting, was the subject of what began as a traffic stop for tinted windows and an expired registration near the foot of West Ferry. That eventually turned into a wild police chase lasting 20 minutes, and traversing several city neighborhoods, with Bell allegedly firing at police and police firing back.

Three police officers were shot in the incident. 

Bell, who was shot by police three times at the end of the chase, is charged with five counts of attempted murder of a police officer. If convicted, he faces up to 40 years to life behind bars in connection with the incident.

While Bell is charged with firing at five officers, he's only charged with shooting one of them.

The other two officers were shot by fellow officers in what District Attorney John Flynn termed as friendly fire during a news conference following Bell's arraignment.

A little over 32 minutes of bodycam footage was released by Buffalo Police. The video shows officers approaching Bell in his vehicle at the foot of Ferry in Buffalo. While running his license and registration, police say the registration came back suspended for lack of insurance. After asking Bell to get out of the vehicle, the video shots him driving off and a chase ensued. 

Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told reporters that regarding that initial pursuit, "That is not in our pursuit policy, and the pursuit should not have been engaged."

Police say a woman who in Bell's vehicle did jump out and was picked up by a police officer, who placed her in the cruiser and continued the pursuit. Gramaglia also said that was not normal procedure.  

Then Gramaglia said "seconds later, the first shot was fired by the suspect. That changed the game, and that made the pursuit within policy."  

Gramaglia was asked about audio in the recording, which seems to be that of a dispatcher telling officers that a watch commander had said to terminate the pursuit and to back off.

"When a command officer called for that pursuit to be terminated, at that point we thought we had multiple officers shot -- firearms being discharged -- a higher ranking officer with my endorsement continued the pursuit," Gramaglia said.

"The speeds are not high but there is a danger to the public with him shooting throughout this." 

Several police officers can be seen shooting their weapons after Bell allegedly fired at them.

"There were at minimum approximately 14 shots fired by Mr. Bell in this entire incident," Flynn said. "Approximately 16 Buffalo Police officers fired their weapons in the course of this entire incident. The number of shots fired by police officers is numerous, and I can't put a number on that."

During his news conference on Thursday, Flynn said several officers appeared to have displayed a lack of common sense during parts of the incident.

When Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia was asked about the district attorney's comments, he said the DA has his criminal probe, and he has his internal probe and that he wasn't going to get into the back and forth. 

The officers have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the incident. The Buffalo Police will now conduct their internal investigation and will be reviewing more than 100 bodycam recordings. 

Gramaglia said they will take statements for all the officers who are cooperating. That could take about two weeks or so to complete that process.

"We are reviewing all of the discharges of the weapons. Every officer that fired a round is obviously responsible for where that round goes," he said.

Gramaglia also stressed that "we are going to look at where we need to improve upon training, change training, retrain people that have been trained on some of these already."

And again, on the point of officers firing during the actual vehicle chase, "Our use of force policy prohibits shooting at or from a motor vehicle unless deadly physical force is being used against you by a means other than the vehicle. So we have to look and see what those officers that were discharging their weapon, what did they face at that time."

All this to review and determine if there will be any potential discipline for the officers involved.

"That could range if their found guilty of any departmental violations. That could range from training right on up through termination," Gramaglia said.

But the commissioner also had this reminder: "We don't get to pick and choose where these things happen. Thank God nobody in the public was hit by a stray round, either by police or by the defendant in this case, so this is a scenario that was not in the norm."

WARNING: The bodycam footage contains language and video that some might find disturbing. 

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