BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Police tell 2 On Your Side an Internal Affairs investigation is underway after an officer's rifle fell off a roof and onto a sidewalk during the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday.
“This is something that doesn't happen, can’t happen, nor I've never heard of this happening,” said Joseph Gramaglia, Buffalo Police commissioner.
Pictures shared with WGRZ by Andrew Mavrogeorgis show the officer positioned on top of the building at 560 Delaware Avenue at Allen Street in downtown Buffalo. The rifle is perched on the edge, on top of a stand, a short distance from the officer.
Gramaglia told 2 On Your Side that the officer was acting in an overwatch position, a security measure that offers the department a vantage point during mass gatherings. He said an ongoing investigation by the department indicated that a heavy wind gust caused the rifle to fall from its perch and off the edge of the building.
He does not believe the officer mishandled the firearm.
“It's not that it was physically being handled, it wasn't dropped,” Gramaglia said.
“I have to wait for the internal investigation to play out. But the early reports that I'm being advised on is it was secured on the tripod with a weighted bag, which is their protocol.”
The rifle fell within feet of parade spectators and was rapidly secured by another officer and removed from the scene. Experts say it didn’t pose any immediate risk to the public.
“These weapons are not something like a handgun or something where you could just pick it up and the average person would know how to utilize it,” said Jeff Rinaldo, retired Buffalo Police captain.
As Buffalo PD continues its investigation, Sunday’s close call now serving as a reminder to the department about the importance of the overwatch position and its necessity in protecting events going forward.
“Anytime you have a mass gathering, that's what's considered a soft target where you have large amounts of people, medium-sized amount of people coming together, we have a duty and obligation to protect them,” Gramaglia said.
“It's not the days of old when I was on patrol and we had officers out. You've got to have highly trained tactical officers now in these in these situations.”