David N. Mack repeatedly portrayed himself as the angry victim of an unprovoked attack by Buffalo police during his testimony Monday in a disciplinary hearing for an officer he said saved him from being choked.
Mack said that more and more officers showed up at his Walden Avenue home last November as he tried to resist being placed under arrest for failing to cooperate with an officer investigating an incident involving mail delivered to his home.
"He bum-rushed his way into my house. He was acting crazy. I didn't want to go," Mack said of Officer Paul L. Sobkowiak, the first officer to enter the house. "He reached to his side. We started scuffling. I said, 'What are you doing in my house? Get out.' He just started swinging and [pepper-] spraying me. Next thing I know, there's another officer. They had me twisted up, and I couldn't breathe."
Mack is a key witness for Officer Cariol J. Horne, who has been brought up on Buffalo Police Department charges of interfering in the Nov. 1, 2006, arrest of Mack, who said Horne saved him by stopping Officer Gregory M. Kwiatkowski from choking him.
Horne, a 19-year member of the department, could be fired if she is found guilty of the charges. About 50 spectators attended the proceedings Monday in Buffalo Police Headquarters.
As the 55-year-old Mack was carried out of his house by a group of officers, he said, Horne intervened in the driveway and freed him from the chokehold.
Several charges brought against Mack from the incident were later dismissed in Buffalo City Court, and he is now suing the city.
In cross-examination, Police Department attorney Diane T. O'Gorman called Mack's interpretation of the events into question.
She asked Mack whether Sobkowiak had asked him to simply return a government check addressed to Yolanda Wilkerson so that the officer could leave. O'Gorman also asked whether the officer said Mack would be locked up if he refused to comply.
"Didn't the officer tell you that you would be locked up if you would not give [Wilkerson] the check?" O'Gorman said.
"Absolutely not," Mack said, contending that he did not know what letters a postal carrier had delivered to his home that morning.
The postal carrier, however, testified earlier this month that he had flagged down Sobkowiak and alerted the officer to a quarrel between Mack and Wilkerson over the Supplemental Security Income check.
In proceedings that have included a defense lawyer's harsh but unsubstantiated accusation against Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson, O'Gorman pointed out that Mack has two prior convictions, one from 1999, criminal mischief, and the other from 1979, attempted possession of a weapon.
Mack tried to deny the convictions but eventually agreed that they were correct.
Earlier Monday, Mack's son Wesley testified he was hit in the head with a nightstick by Officer Anthony L. Porzio while other officers were arresting his father.
The officer, in a statement, said he hit the young man in the shoulder once because the son refused to back off in the kitchen area of the home when the other officers were trying to arrest his father.
Outside in the driveway, the son testified, he saw Horne on the left side of Kwiatkowski, who had his father in a chokehold. Wesley Mack said Kwiatkowski struck Horne during her effort to halt the chokehold.
Testimony in the hearing is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Dec. 10, with additional testimony from David Mack.
In a related matter, Horne's attorney Anthony L. Pendergrass said he has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the City of Buffalo, city officials, the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association and PBA officials, seeking restitution from when Horne was wrongfully fired several years ago, and payment for her continuing legal fees.