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ARMED RESIDENT OF HOTEL SHOT IN CONFRONTATION WITH POLICE

Investigators today were trying to determine exactly what happened Tuesday when police shot a man who was armed with a sawed-off rifle.

Police say Richard Rhodes, 47, carrying a loaded rifle, approached three officers before they returned fire and shot him three times outside his room in the Lafayette Hotel.

Rhodes, described as a quiet tenant who lives in the hotel on Washington Street, apparently was hit three times -- in the hand, arm and leg -- shortly before 5 p.m.

Lt. Michael McParlane and Officers Salvatore Losi and Mark Mullins from the Theater District Station ordered the man to drop the weapon, but he kept moving toward them and was shot, said Assistant Chief of Detectives Gregory Simonian.

A loaded .22-caliber rifle was recovered. Buffalo Homicide Chief Richard T. Donovan said officers fired several shots, although it had not been determined whose bullets struck Rhodes.

Police also were investigating whether the suspect fired his gun.

"We believe he fired at approximately the same time the officers did," said Simonian.

Rhodes was apparently conscious as he was wheeled out of the hotel on a stretcher, and was in fair condition today in Erie County Medical Center, officials said.

The shooting occurred before 5 p.m. after visitors and employees of the hotel saw a man in the lobby with a rifle protruding from under his coat as he made a telephone call. The man then went to his room, where Donovan said officers blocked the hallway and waited for hostage negotiators and the Special Weapons and Tactics Team.

But before SWAT officers arrived, Rhodes left his room and walked toward the officers, who took cover, officials said.

"The officers retreated as far as they could," said Simonian. "He kept advancing. He wouldn't stop. They apparently opened fire."

Simonian said police have no motive for Rhodes' actions, although Commissioner Ralph V. Degenhart said Rhodes "accused officers of taking one of his guns."

Police charged Rhodes with reckless endangerment, menacing and possession of a weapon.

"He was struck in the leg and in the hand. The officers tried to immobilize him," Simonian said. "I'm not saying they didn't shoot to kill, and I'm not saying that they did."

A clerk at the Lafayette Hotel said Rhodes had lived in the hotel on three separate occasions, moving in the last time in July.

"He would say, 'Good morning,' " said the clerk, who asked that her name not be used. "In the summertime, he used to go fishing. . . . He went out in the morning with a fishing pole."

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