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Grieving Sager family thanks community for its support

William C. Sager Sr. has witnessed two extremes of human nature.

About a year ago, a man killed his son, William C. Sager Jr., in an unprovoked assault at Molly’s Pub.

What followed was a year filled with mourning, lawsuits and deep personal pain. That pain was tempered only by the generosity and support from both the Buffalo community and people around the nation, he said.

There were phone calls of encouragement from as far as California, handshakes and hugs from strangers at the grocery store and even a letter of condolence from President Obama.

Sager’s family gathered at the Iraq/Afghanistan Memorial near Canalside – where Sager’s name has been engraved – Thursday morning to thank everybody for that support.

“It’s difficult to remember and talk about him,” said a tearful William Sager, the Air National Guardsman’s father, who held an unfolded American flag and a stone arrowhead in his arms. He discovered the mementos in a bag his son carried at all times, he said while fighting back tears.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is a small chapter, but I don’t think it will ever be closed for me,” he said. “The emptiness is going to be in all our hearts and souls for the rest of our lives.”

Erika Webster, Sager’s fiancée, also expressed gratitude to the community.

“On one side, you’re seeing the ugliest side of humanity possible,” she said. “The other side is the absolute beauty that is humanity. Everybody’s been so encouraging and supportive from the very beginning, and it’s been unreal to me. We really appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts.”

To honor her lost love’s memory and aid other veterans, Webster said she is now working at the Veterans One-Stop Center of Western New York.

On May 11, 2014, Jeffrey Basil, the manager of Molly’s Pub on Main Street in University Heights, shoved the 28-year-old Sager over a staircase in what was described as an unprovoked assault. Sager plummeted to the bottom of the steps, suffering a catastrophic brain injury. He died July 31.

Basil pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 18 years in prison Wednesday morning.

On Thursday, the Sager family’s lawyer, Francis M. Letro, also provided a few updates on the family’s lawsuit against the City of Buffalo, the Buffalo Police Department, the owners of Molly’s Pub and others.

“It’s our position, as was indicated in the indictment, that there was a conspiracy among them to deny citizens of their constitutional rights,” he said.

The suit, filed in May in State Supreme Court, includes 28 causes of action and seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.

The defendants include Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda, two police officers who were working as bouncers at the bar, the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association and the landlord of the Main Street property where Molly’s Pub was located.

Letro said that he had received formal answers from all of the defendants, and that the city is asking that the suit be dismissed. He said he expects arguments to be heard sometime in the next month.

email: cjasper@buffnews.com