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Grand jury clears officer in fatal shooting of student, 17

Buffalo Police Officer Gerald Smith was cleared Monday by an Erie County grand jury in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old Buffalo high school student following a high-speed car chase last summer.

Smith, an 18-year veteran of the force, was cleared in the July 9 shooting of Deandre Baldon on Eggert Road in Cheektowaga, just east of the Buffalo city line.

Baldon was shot after a car chase involving him and several accomplices linked to an apparent attempt to silence the victim of a Buffalo home invasion in May.

District Attorney Frank J. Clark confirmed that the grand jury absolved Smith, 41, of criminal accountability for the fatal shooting. Smith could have faced charges of first-degree manslaughter.

Clark confirmed that criminal proceedings in the home invasion and the attempt on the life of the 33-year-old victim "are ongoing" against at least one other suspect, but he declined to comment further.

Smith testified before the grand jury two weeks ago after waiving immunity. He could not be reached to comment Monday.

Thomas H. Burton, the police union lawyer who represented Smith, said the incident was "somber and sad, but it was pretty clear that evening that Smith had no recourse other than to shoot" at the suspect.

According to police reports, the incident began at about 11:40 p.m. July 8, when Baldon and two other men reportedly fired shots at the victim as he drove in the East Delavan Avenue-Moselle Street area and followed him in their car.

Smith, standing outside the Northeast District police station at Bailey Avenue and Langfield Drive, was flagged down by the victim just after midnight. The officer got in his patrol car and chased Baldon and his companions until their car ran off the road at Langfield Drive and Eggert Road, and they fled on foot.

Police reported Smith fired his handgun after spotting what he thought was a gun, but which turned out to be Baldon's shiny metal belt buckle. The Burgard Vocational High School student, who had been arrested in March after a school fight, died of a gunshot wound to the chest.

Moments after the shooting, other officers recovered an SKS assault rifle, two shotguns, slugs and shells from the car Baldon and his accomplices had abandoned.


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