A 20-year-old Cheektowaga woman was critically injured this morning when she was hit by a stray bullet during a shootout between Buffalo police and a gunman on Genesee Street. The bullet tore through a nearby apartment and struck her in the head, police said.
Amber Keller was fighting for her life in Erie County Medical Center after she went into full cardiac arrest. She was listed in critical condition.
"She is in mortal danger," said Buffalo Police Commissioner Rocco J. Diina, who was at the hospital this morning surrounded by her family. "The doctors are conducting tests to make a determination what surgery they should perform."
Detective Sgt. James P. Lonergan said police are unsure if she was struck by a bullet from the gunman or the police officer.
However, Buffalo police sources say Ferry-Fillmore District Officer Thomas P. English fired the shot that struck the woman.
The gunman, identified as Mario Pittman, 31, of Freund Street, was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted murder, criminal possession of a weapon, resisting arrest, criminal possession of a controlled substance and obstructing governmental administration. The gunman's intended target, who was not injured, also is being questioned in Police Headquarters.
Homicide Squad detectives said that at about 2:30 a.m., an officer pulled up to Genesee and Rogers streets, near the Cheektowaga line, and saw a man pointing his handgun at another man.
"Police ordered him to drop the gun. He fired several shots at the police officer, the officer took cover behind the car and returned fire," said Lonergan.
Meanwhile, Keller apparently heard the gunfire and was looking through the window inside a nearby lower apartment when she was hit by the bullet. Lonergan said she was visiting a friend.
Lonergan said ballistic tests will be performed to determine whether the gunman's or the officer's struck the woman.
After the shootout on Genesee Street, Pittman ran through several yards before officers apprehended him on Floss Street.
The intended target also fled and was found hiding in a nearby yard. Lonergan said the man stayed in the yard until officers approached him and he felt it was safe to emerge.