WHEATFIELD, N.Y. (WIVB) — A weeklong investigation found Niagara County Deputy Joseph Tortorella was justified in using deadly force against Duane Bores Jr., during a chaotic scene that unfolded just feet from an elementary school one week ago.
Tortorella was first on the scene April 17 at the home in the town of Wheatfield following a 911 hang-up. It was supposed to be a routine response.
Bores, 25, ended the incident by taking his own life in the home’s kitchen. That was after Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour says he shot each of his parents in the head and engaged in a gun battle with Tortorella.
Upon arriving at the home on Errick Road, Tortorella met Bores at the front door. He appeared skittish and strange, and shut the door on the deputy, who retreated to the front corner of the property to get a better look.
Minutes later, Bores walked out of the home’s rear door with what would later be found to be two of his father’s handguns — a 9mm and .45 — stuffed in his back pockets. Bores walked to the front of the home, where he and Tortorella exchanged words before gunfire. Tortorella shot Bores three times: In the lower abdomen, side and lower leg. Then they separated — Tortorella behind a tree and Bores behind the county cruiser — and a shootout followed.
Although none of the three shots were fatal, Niagara County District Attorney Michael J. Violante said Friday the investigation confirmed Tortorella’s use of deadly force was justified.
“Use of deadly physical force, in my opinion, is a non-issue here,” Violante said. “In my opinion, I think what he (Bores) wanted was suicide by cop.”
Tortorella “saw a guy that was obviously not stable. He saw a guy that was putting his hands behind his back,” Voutour said. “He was failing to comply with orders. He had blood on his hands …”
As the gun battle raged outside, Bores’ parents lay inside, clinging to life and losing consciousness while on the phone with dispatchers, keeping them apprised as best they could. “They were fading quickly,” Voutour said. “It was very hard to get information out of them. And very difficult to understand them.”Duane Bores Sr. and Cynthia Bores were listed in critical condition Friday at ECMC. Neither can speak because of tubes in their throats. They’re expected to survive, Voutour said.
Meanwhile, Bores Jr. made his way back inside the home and fired a single shot into his head. Other deputies donned shields, entered the home, found Bores’ lifeless body and took his parents to safety.
Voutour said Friday the investigation had been helped along by five surveillance cameras installed around the outside of the house. Voutour says his office was able to watch the entire shooting unfold.
“To record, almost like a TV producer shot it, was amazing and was certainly very helpful in this situation.”
He also said it gave him a unique perspective about his deputy, something he realized when he watched it for the first time Friday afternoon.
“One tough cop. One tough cop,” Voutour said, visibly shaken. “I’ll tell you, he could have retreated. He could’ve ran around the house you could get a lot of stuff. But he stood his ground and he said not today, not on my watch.”
Tortorella was also the first to call for the school that shares a property line with the home — Errick Road Elementary — to be placed on lockdown. Voutour said Tortorella was trying to save students and staff at the school, particularly two of his three children and his wife, who is a teacher.
Police say Tortorella will be welcomed back to the department when he’s ready, but will see a counselor before his return, which is standard protocol.
Signs have sprung up thanking Tortorella for his actions.