BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- A detailed report on the death of unarmed 20-year-old Wardel Davis states the Buffalo man died from an asthma attack during a scuffle with two Buffalo police officers.
The report finds partners Nicholas Parisi and Todd McAlister, who reportedly stopped Davis for suspected drug activity February 7 , acted within their rights and won’t face criminal charges in his death.
However, the report points to problems within the Erie County Medical Examiner’s office, specifically the actions of Dr. Katherine Maloney.
Attorney for the Buffalo PBA Tom Burton told News 4 he believes Dr. Maloney was professional and thorough.
“When we brought these officers over to be interviewed, we did it voluntarily, and it was my impression of the local ME, she wanted to find out what happened and do it accurately,” Burton said.
The AG’s report claims Maloney “insisted on speaking with the officers involved (who clearly have an interest in the
report’s conclusions) before making a scientific conclusion about the cause and manner of death. The ME met with the officers jointly (with their attorneys) and without a member of the investigative team.”
The report goes on to claim Maloney said if the officers didn’t meet with her, she’d report Davis died of positional asphyxia, being held in a position so that you can’t breath.
That’s when AG investigators asked a second independent pathologist if Davis could have died that way; he indicated no.
Ultimately, both Dr. Maloney and the second pathologist agreed on Davis’ actual cause of death.
The AG report urges the ME’s office to follow National Association of Medical Examiner’s (NAME) guidelines for future cases.
Erie County spokesperson Peter Anderson issued the following statement in response:
“Erie County stands by the decision of the Medical Examiner’s Office to seek interviews with the officers involved in Mr. Davis’s death, which is standard practice among forensic pathologists. A complete forensic report and analysis relies not just on a physical examination of the body, but on a complete understanding of the circumstances surrounding a death including eyewitness accounts.
The Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office strives to meet National Association of Medical Examiner’s standards for best practices, and we are confident that the Medical Examiner’s actions in this case are consistent with NAME guidelines.”
Via email, Anderson did indicate that it’s more common for ME’s to receive written statements as opposed to conducting in-person interviews.
Wednesday, a rally was held outside Buffalo Police headquarters in response to the AG’s report.
“We need more training, we need true community policing,” said protester Heron Simmonds.
The AG agrees, and suggests in the report that BPD seek state certification to improve it’s evidence collection and documentation, something his office claims was serious lacking in this case.
Officers Parisi and McAlister have been on paid leave since Davis’ death.
Burton indicated to News 4 that on several occasions, he wrote to the AG’s office, stating that his client and Officer Parisi were willing to be interviewed together.
According to Burton, the AG’s office wanted to interview the officers individually, which he would not allow.
Burton said it’s up to Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda as to when they can return to work.
An internal police investigation is ongoing.