An off-duty Buffalo police lieutenant served as Patrick Kane’s chauffeur on the night the hockey star was accused of raping a young woman in his Town of Hamburg home.
Lt. Thomas English told The Buffalo News that he drove Kane, the alleged rape victim, her female friend and a male friend of Kane’s to the National Hockey League player’s home on Old Lake Shore Road early on the morning of Aug. 2.
English said investigators from the Erie County District Attorney’s Office have interviewed him as they investigate the allegation against Kane.
English said he supports Kane, a longtime family friend who has employed him for the past five years. In photos that could be viewed on English’s Facebook page as recently as Thursday, he is seen with the Stanley Cup at a celebration with Kane in 2010.
The lieutenant acknowledged that he has no way of knowing what happened between Kane and the alleged victim inside the house. Since the allegation was made, he said, he has had no contact with Kane or his family.
Law enforcement sources told The News that Buffalo police are conducting an internal investigation to determine whether English was with Kane at any time he was supposed to be on duty the night of the alleged rape. Authorities said English was scheduled to work a half-shift that night at the police cell block and took a half-shift off on that night as personal leave time. English said he took the entire shift off with personal leave time.
Of English, a Buffalo police official said, “We are not aware of any allegations of improper activity by the off-duty officer in dealing with Kane or the alleged victim that night.”
This is what English said he told investigators:
He was not with Kane or at Kane’s house during the time the woman has alleged that Kane overpowered and raped her, leaving her with a scratched leg and bite marks on both her shoulders.
But English said he was with Kane and the alleged victim, and other friends, for a couple of hours early that morning at SkyBar, a downtown nightclub, before driving Kane and the three others to Hamburg. He said that after dropping them off, he left.
English said he was with Kane and Thomas Cowan, a Buffalo restaurateur, the entire time they were at SkyBar and witnessed no inappropriate behavior there or on the drive to Kane’s home.
“It was a mutual agreement to go hang out at the house,” English said.
Kane, 26, who signed an eight-year, $84 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks last year, has much to lose if he is charged and convicted of sexually attacking the woman. In addition to the police investigation, he also faces an investigation by the NHL, which could suspend him if his conduct is found to have violated league standards. If convicted, he also could face difficulties traveling to Canada – where seven NHL teams are located.
No charges have been filed against Kane.
The statements by English and earlier comments by SkyBar owner and Buffalo developer Mark Croce, who also was arranging with Kane to bring the Stanley Cup to his bar when the trophy was in town, are contradicted by what other sources said about the events leading up to the alleged rape.
English disputed the accounts of three sources – a friend of the alleged victim, a law enforcement source and a source in the legal community – who told The News that the alleged rape victim went to Kane’s home because of her friend’s urging.
According to English, it was the other way around. The alleged victim urged her female friend to go with them to Kane’s home, said English, who identified the accuser by name.
Asked if Kane previously knew the young woman, English said: “Not that I’m aware of, but I just don’t know.”
Kane and his attorney, Paul J. Cambria Jr., have not publicly addressed the rape allegation. But Cambria told The News that he feels the observations of English and Croce are significant, because they are two people who he said witnessed Kane’s conduct with the alleged victim prior to the alleged attack.
“They are eyewitnesses,” said Cambria, who was also at SkyBar that night.
The News made repeated attempts to reach both the alleged victim’s friend and Cowan, but was unsuccessful. Telephone calls were made to the friend’s attorney, and a reporter went to one of Cowan’s restaurants seeking his comments. Telephone messages also were left for Cowan.
Attorney Thomas J. Eoannou, who represents the alleged victim, has repeatedly declined to comment on all aspects of the case, including the observations of Croce and English.
Buffalo police officers are permitted to have second jobs, such as English’s, as long as they file paperwork with the department. A police source said English’s paperwork is in order.
English, in discussing the Kane matter, was not speaking as a representative of the Police Department. Officers are prohibited from speaking to reporters in official capacity.
Croce said he spoke last week with a District Attorney’s Office investigator and told his general manager to fully cooperate with the authorities in providing a list of bartenders and their contact information.
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