BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Just days before the statute of limitations would have expired, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Buffalo filed charges against three Buffalo Police officers accused of using excessive force and violating the civil rights of four teens.
Retired Lieutenant Gregory Kwiatkowski, 49, as well as officers Raymond Krug, 36, and Joseph Wendel, 37, are accused of using excessive force while arresting the teens in 2009. Kwiatkowski was suspended in 2010 for a physical confrontation with another officer.
This is the latest black eye for the Buffalo Police Department:
>>That news was followed by the incident at Mollys Pub on Main Street near UB’s South Campus, where an Air National Guardsman was pushed down a flight of stairs, leaving him with critical injuries. Two Buffalo Police officers were present at the time
According to federal prosecutors, Kwiatkowski used excessive force while one of the four teens was already under arrest. Officers Raymond Krug and Joseph Wendel are accused of using one of the suspect’s BB guns to shoot at one of the teens, Donald Silmon, while the suspect was in handcuffs in a police car.
“These officers stand accused of shooting one of the young men who had already been placed in the police car, who had already been in handcuffs,” U.S. Attorney Bill Hochul said. “Shooting that young man two times with a BB gun.”
The group of teens had allegedly fired a BB gun into a crowd on Treehaven Road near Eggert Road in Buffalo.
The indictment says Kwiatkowski and Wendel also used excessive force after the teens, including Silmon, Jeffrey Campbell II, who is the son of Buffalo Police Officer Annette Parker, and another teen, were in custody at a police station. Some of the teen suspects had to seek medical treatment, according to federal prosecutors. Two of them, Silmon and Campbell, filed civil lawsuits, which were settled in December when each were paid $75,000.
According to authorities, it’s rare for incidents like this to happen, but they say when they do it’s important to act.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said, “99 percent of our officers each and every day do an excellent job; they put their lives on the line for this community. Their badges should not be tarnished by the actions of a few. We will be aggressive in weeding out the few that don’t follow the rules.”
No arraignment date has been set for any of the officers. If they officers are convicted of any of these crimes they face 10 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine. But not everyone believes that prosecutors have a strong case five years after the incident allegedly took place.
Terry Connors, who is representing Raymond Krug, said, “Logic would suggest if it were a very strong case, it would have been brought right away.”
Connors says the statute of limitations for these crimes is five years, and would have expired at the end of the month. By June 1, none of the officers could have been prosecuted.
“One of the things we’re going to investigate is why the delay was so long. And why it was filed on the eve of the expiration of the statute of limitations,” Connors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Campana countered, “There’s a lot to look at. We just finished looking at everything last week.”
Kwiaktowski has been in trouble with the department in the past. News 4 learned in 2010 that he had been involved in a confrontation with another officer at a district station house. At the time, he was already at the center of an internal investigation following a fight in May 2010 involving other officers at Page’s Grill and Bar in Lancaster.
The Buffalo Common Council just recently reinstated the Police Oversight Committee. Niagara District Councilman and Chairman of the committee David Rivera said, “We want to make sure something is being done to remedy that so it doesn’t happen again, to reduce the liability to the city and the taxpayers, because at the end of the day it’s the taxpayers who are paying out those claims.”