BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The family and friends of Bill Sager Jr. gathered at the Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial in Buffalo’s Naval and Military park Thursday morning to honor the memory of the air national guardsman who died last summer, just one day after the man who caused his death was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Bill Sager Jr. died July 31, 2014, 82 days after Jeffrey Basil pushed him down stairs as Molly’s Pub in Buffalo. Basil pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter last month and was sentenced to 18 years in prison in State Supreme Court on Wednesday. During the sentencing, Sager’s fiancee, Erika Webster, told the court no sentence could make up for her loss or that of the Sager family.
Thursday morning, Sager’s family addressed reporters and thanked the Western New York community for all of the support it has given them over the last, difficult year.
Sager, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, was about to get married, was fixing up a house and planning to start a family, and was looking into a career as a state trooper when he was killed. His family says he was proud of service and proud of his heritage, and his father held up two of his prized possessions, a flag and an arrowhead, to show that.
The family is asking everyone to remember Bill Sager Jr. as a hero.
“He loved his country, he loved his community, I mean, I could go on and on and on. He loved his friends,” Bill Sager Sr. said Thursday morning. “We are all going to have an empty feeling the whole rest of our life. He is going to be gone and we have to carry that with us.”
The Sager family says they are very grateful for all of the support they’ve received, from handshakes and hugs from friends and strangers alike, to letters from around the country, including one from the president.
Jeffrey Basil waived his right to appeal as part of his plea agreement so the criminal case against him is now closed. A civil case against him, though, is still pending.
The Sager family has filed civil suits against Basil, the city of Buffalo, the Buffalo Police Department, the owner of Molly’s Pub, and suspended police officer Robert Eloff, among others. An attorney for the family says he expects oral arguments to get underway within the next month of so.