Housing dispute leads to BPD internal affairs investigation

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- A Brooklyn man claims Buffalo Police officers violated his constitutional rights when they kicked him off a property he bought on the city auction.

A BPD officer claims he still owns the house.

Mohammad Ismail bought the home at 369 Sherman St. on the city auction in October. He plans to move his family to Buffalo from Brooklyn.

“I feel proud this is my house,” said Ismail.

He told News 4 he got the deed in January, then got a building permit and started working on the house this spring.

On April 18, Ismail said he and a cousin were working on the roof.

“Two officers show up, they’re screaming from outside,” described Ismail.

According to Ismail, it was a female officer and Christopher Fields, the previous owner.

The interaction that followed is now documented in a citizen’s complaint Ismail filed the next day.

Under the “allegations” section of the complaint, Ismail wrote he was harassed. The complaint goes on to say an officer claimed he owned the house and the officer changed the locks.

“I have a deed, I have everything, look I have a work permit and I hand over to them,” said Ismail. “They don’t want to believe me.”

Ismail said he was told not to return to the house and he could be arrested.

“I was very, you know, nervous,” he said.

Ismail told News 4 he left and confirmed the next day at City Hall that the house is under his name.

He said he went back a few days later to continue working on the roof when the female officer returned with another officer.

Ismail’s cousin recorded what happened next.

In the video the female officer says, “Did you not see the owner here the other day? You’re trespassing. What don’t you understand about that? If he comes here and he wants you locked up you can go to jail.”

She goes on to say, “You don’t have keys, he changed the locks, he told you that the other day. How did you get in the back of there? How did you get in the back of the house? How did you get in? He owns this house, you don’t own it.”

The female officer continues by saying “Get out now, go, goodbye or I’m going to take you to jail.”

On the video Ismail asks the officers to call the building inspector for proof he owns the house. He agrees to leave.

The next day Ismail said he filed another complaint with BPD’s Internal Affairs Office.

The Erie County Director of Real Property Tax Services, Joseph Maciejewski, confirmed to News 4 that Ismail owns the home, not Christopher Fields. Maciejewski said it was foreclosed upon because of unpaid sewer and city taxes.

News 4 confirmed through multiple city and county agencies that Ismail bought the home at auction for $14,000. Maciejewski said records show Ismail paid the back taxes as part of the sale.

“Whatever hope I bring over here… that hope is missing,” said Ismail.

On May 5, Ismail’s attorney Rafael Gomez filed a notice of claim with the City of Buffalo.

It says Ismail’s constitutional rights were violated and he was harassed “without probable cause or reasonable good faith” he violated any laws.

It goes on to say Officer Fields and the female officer, whose name has not been confirmed, “abused their authority under the color of state law.”

Buffalo Police told News 4 on Wednesday the Internal Affairs Office has opened an investigation into the matter. We reached out to Officer Fields through the Police Benevolent Association, city officials, and on social media. We’re told he’s unable to comment because there is an active internal affairs investigation.

PBA President Kevin Kennedy said in a statement, “..there appears to be a great deal of confusion about the ownership of this property. This confusion was created by the operations of the City of Buffalo’s Corporation Counsel and the selling of property with back taxes and fee assessments. I do not believe that the City does its due diligence in notifying owners and lien holders when the City sells properties for back taxes.”

Gomez said Ismail will meet with the city’s attorney to give a statement next week.

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