A moment before Buffalo Police Officer Maurice Abram fired a bullet into Edwin Crespo's left leg Friday, the officer saw a flash of metal drop to the ground.
Abram was unaware that the flash had been caused by a screwdriver that had popped from his own jacket pocket, and he later realized that this was exactly what happened in the struggle with Crespo, according to authorities familiar with the investigation into the shooting at Busti Avenue and Jersey Street.
Abram, described as a high-tech buff, uses the 5-inch screwdriver to repair computers, sources said.
But why would an on-duty officer carry the tool with him on patrol?
And, more importantly, did the flash of metal somehow elevate or affect the circumstances of the fast-moving confrontation?
Those were some of the questions authorities raised Wednesday in trying to piece together events leading to the shooting.
As Crespo, brother of Cold Spring Station Officer Benjamin Crespo, fought with Abram and his partner, Officer Harvey Smith, he allegedly yelled at the Downtown District officers that he wanted to be arrested.
No one knows, with the exception perhaps of Crespo, according to sources close to the case, who would speak only on condition of anonymity.
Even more puzzling is that Crespo, 36, sought police help just prior to the 2:30 p.m. fight. He flagged down a patrol car to report that someone was breaking his car windows, police said.
Officers Bruce Delmont and Paul Zipp apprehended two teen-agers, possibly responsible for the vandalism. At the same time, Abram and Smith arrived in response to a call of a man with a gun.
As the encounter with Abram and Smith turned physical and they tried to arrest Crespo for disorderly conduct, Abram used his chemical pepper spray in an attempt to subdue him, police officials said.
But it had no effect on him, police said; instead, the spray temporarily blinded Smith, who broke away from the struggle and was taken to safety by other officers.
At that point, Abram pulled out his gun with his right hand as Crespo allegedly punched him in the chest and right arm. Abram decided to shoot Crespo in the leg, according to authorities.
Was there justification to use the weapon?
Authorities have had a tough time answering that question, but they point to a state law describing when it is legally authorized for an officer to use deadly force.
An officer "may use deadly physical force" to defend himself or another person "from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force," according to the law.
Thomas Burton, attorney for the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, which is providing legal assistance to Abram, said:
"It appeared the pepper spray did not work and Abram's partner was clearly incapacitated and Mr. Crespo was continuing his attack, and at that juncture, the officer (Abram) drew his weapon."