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Friends reflect on 2 sides of suspended trooper; Say Taggart was serious about work

It's the apparent "other side" of Trooper Titus Z. Taggart that has landed him in hot water and put his 18-year State Police career in jeopardy.

As the news about Taggart's suspension from the State Police spread among his friends and colleagues, they reflected on "the two sides" of the 41-year-old man who was suspended Thursday from his job policing the Thruway.

There is "Trooper Titus Z. Taggart," who proudly wore the pressed gray uniform and Stetson of the State Police and recognized the seriousness of his responsibilities on the job.

And then there is "t4008," one of Taggart's online personas who -- as the public could see through various social media sites -- lived in an "after-hours" world apparently rife with flamboyant dress, scantily clad women and large bottles of expensive liquor.

The Amherst resident allegedly had "organized parties that may have involved the promotion of prostitution, while off-duty," according to an official State Police statement announcing his suspension.

Two other troopers -- both assigned to the Thruway in the Rochester area -- also were suspended, but state police say they were not party organizers.

"I was pretty surprised to see the story that had broke on the news," said Modie Cox, former University at Buffalo basketball star who now runs the local "Winning Because I Tried" mentoring program and considers Taggart a longtime personal friend.

The 39-year-old Cox -- who had a run-in with the law in the mid-1990s when he was arrested, ironically, on the State Thruway on drug charges -- said he knew Taggart was promoting "events" outside of his police duties because he'd gotten invitations to them.

"I guess it was for a certain clientele -- professional people," Cox said, explaining that the invitations usually came via text message or by email for a party or some type of gathering Taggart was throwing at "this particular place" that said, "if you can, show up."

Said Cox: "I didn't attend these events; it wasn't my cup of tea."

Still, Cox said, when it came to Taggart's official police duties, he "never knew him as being malicious or bad or anything of that nature."

"I knew him as an honest guy," Cox said. "I never saw him use his job to his advantage. He never thought he was above the law. I've had nothing but positive experiences with him."

Desmond "BattleCat" Peterson, who operates Battle Cat Management & Booking and manages bookings of popular acts at some of the area's concert venues, says he knew Taggart socially. Peterson painted a similar picture.

"When he was working, he was a totally different person. When he's working, he's not playing. It's totally by the book," Peterson said, explaining that Taggart once pulled him over for speeding and ordered him to "slow down."

"When he's out at the club and he's partying, he's like a normal person," Peterson said.

Peterson remembered Taggart asking him once or twice for advice about hosting "different events" but had no clue Taggart already had something going on his own.

"I didn't think it [ever had gotten] to the point that he was throwing any parties," Peterson said. "He just didn't seem like that type of person."

"It really just surprised me," Peterson said of the story that broke Thursday. "I literally had to rewind my DVR to make sure it was the right person."

Taggart's Facebook page -- which was disabled Thursday evening after numerous photos showing him with women and large bottles of liquor appeared in the media -- included 1,634 "friends."

Many of those friends seem to live quite differently from what some might believe friends of a trooper should.

Included among them is Karma $antiano -- a Toronto woman with a raunchy Twitter site -- who advocates drug use and deviant sex.

"[Expletive] a badbitch i'm a paidbitch," reads the top of her Twitter account, which earlier this week included the tweet: "They say crime don't pay but it pays my rent."

Many other of Taggart's Facebook friends included provocatively dressed women, some from Western New York and others from the Toronto area and Southern Ontario.

Michael P. Nigrelli, Taggart's former State Police commander, said the trooper he knew appeared to be a solid, low-key, hardworking trooper in the 15 years that he knew him.

"From everything I could see, he was the kind of guy who came into work every day, and did his work, without doing anything to draw attention to himself," said Nigrelli, former State Police commander of State Thruway patrols in Western New York.

"Titus was very respectful and was anything but flashy," Nigrelli said.

Nigrelli, who retired at the end of last year, was Taggart's boss for eight years. He said he has known Taggart for 15 years.

"The things we're now hearing about Titus -- this 'Facebook' side of Titus, this stuff about these alleged parties, doesn't fit in at all with the image he projected at work," Nigrelli said.

According to Nigrelli, Taggart worked on the State Thruway for at least the past eight years. He said reports indicating that Taggart worked in Albany for several years are incorrect. Taggart is also a Sweet Home High School graduate.

"He was in Troop T in Buffalo for the whole time I was in command," Nigrelli said.

Nigrelli said he "never was aware of the alleged parties" and never was invited to any such parties while serving as Taggart's boss. He said his retirement had no connection to the Taggart investigation, because he never heard anything about the investigation until a few weeks ago.