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Cellphone tracking led Cheektowaga police to hotel, armed Java man

Cheektowaga police have identified the 34-year-old Wyoming County man who was shot to death by an on-duty officer after approaching the officer with his gun drawn.

The suspect, identified as Darrell P. Bosell, from Java, was wanted by State Police on suspicion of stealing a handgun from a relative who legally owned it.

The incident occurred outside the Best Western Hotel, across the street from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, after Bosell confronted the officer with a weapon, authorities said Sunday.

Cheektowaga Police Chief David Zack, told a press conference Monday morning that the suspect’s weapon, which police have said apparently was the same one stolen in Wyoming County, was not loaded at the time of the shooting.

Troopers notified Cheektowaga officers around 10 p.m. that they believed the suspect was in the town, and officers later responded to the hotel, after tracking the suspect through the pings from his cell phone.

The shooting occurred at about 11 p.m. in the front parking lot of the hotel at 4630 Genesee St.

Zack on Monday outlined the series of events leading up to the shooting:

At about 10 p.m. Saturday, State Police contacted Cheektowaga police to report that Bosell had stolen a .45-caliber, semi-automatic, with eight rounds and 30 additional rounds. That theft was reported to State Police just before 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

State Police also reported Bosell was believed to be at a location on Dale Road, and police were given his cell-phone number.

“Mr. Bosell had been drinking heavily all day,” Zack said, and there were concerns about his state of mind.

At 10:10 p.m., Cheektowaga police reached the Dale Road location but quickly determined Bosell wasn’t there. A highly trained member of the department’s Crisis Intervention Team, who coincidentally turned out later to be the shooter, reached Bosell on his phone but didn’t learn his location.

After another possible location, on Sonwil Drive, turned out to be fruitless, the police officer again made contact with Bosell.

“He was clearly in severe emotional distress,” Zack said of the suspect.

With the assistance of the suspect’s cell-phone provider, police tracked him to the Best Western, where he had rented a room. Police rushed to that scene at about 11 p.m.

“Within 13 seconds of that officer’s arrival, that officer believed he had spotted Mr. Bosell,” Zack said.

The dash-cam camera in the officer’s vehicle clearly showed a handgun in the suspect’s right hand, the chief said. The suspect then “aggressively” approached the officer, “leaving the officer no alternative but to defend himself using deadly physical force,” Zack added.

Though portions of the altercation are not visible in the dash-cam recording, there is audio throughout.

“We can definitely see [Bosell] does face the officer and the handgun comes up in the direction of the officer. That’s clear on the video,” Zack said.

Police did not release dash-cam footage on Monday, but said they plan to in the future.

Investigators are in the process of determining whether the hotel has any surveillance video related to the shooting. They said they don’t believe there were any witnesses.

Cheektowaga police officers started to administer first aid, before paramedics arrived and rushed the suspect to Sisters Hospital, St. Joseph Campus.

“Sadly, Mr. Bosell did not survive,” Zack said.

In all, from the time the officer pulled into the parking lot until paramedics were called, the situation took less than 30 seconds to run its course.

Police said the gun was not loaded. They declined to comment when asked about the ammunition reported stolen with the gun.

When asked if the situation may be one of “suicide by cop,” the police chief declined to delve into related details.

“I think it’s probably premature at this point to assess Mr. Bosell’s state of mind at the time,” Zack said. “I’m certain facts, as we move forward, may give us better insight into that.”

When asked if there was anything Bosell may have said as he approached the officer, Zack said investigators spoke to the officer only briefly and plan to get the officer’s full statement, with an attorney present, in the coming days.

Police reiterated they are confident the officer was justified in shooting Bosell, Zack said.

“From what we know now,” he said, “I don’t think there is any question that the officer involved in this occurrence had any choice but to defend himself.”

During the press conference, Zack offered his “deepest condolences” to Bosell’s family.

“This is a tragedy for all concerned,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Bosell’s family at this time.”

The officer still has not been identified, but at a news conference Sunday, he was described as a 16-year veteran of the Cheektowaga police force. He was alone in his marked police vehicle and was not hurt in Saturday night’s shooting.

“Thankfully, he went home to his family,” Speyer said. “He just suffered a traumatic experience.”

A law enforcement source said that the officer is a former SWAT team member who was “highly trained in close-quarters, deadly force combat such as this,” but that this was the first time he has had to use deadly force.

In accordance with Police Department policy, the officer is on paid administrative leave and is cooperating with the investigation, which will include an examination of the dashboard camera in the police car.

“They’ve been investigating the incident all night with great thoroughness,” Burton said of Cheektowaga investigators.

Assistant Police Chief James J. Speyer Jr. said the state Attorney General’s Office, which is now responsible for reviewing police shootings of unarmed people under a state executive order, has already determined that this incident – in which the victim was armed – “is not in their jurisdiction.” The Erie County District Attorney’s Office was notified Saturday night and is involved in the case.

Speyer said he can recall only one other incident involving the use of deadly force by police in his 29 years on the force.

Burton said that the district attorney will decide whether to convene a grand jury to review the case and that there will be a separate administrative review.

“So far, from what I’ve seen, this shooting, while tragic, is clean as a whistle with respect to the law,” Burton said. “I see absolutely nothing that this officer has to worry about.”

At the hotel, the yellow chalk tracing of the body could still be seen late Sunday morning on the parking lot pavement near the lobby entrance. Four red chalk marks were separately circled and numbered around the body outline, possibly indicating the location of other evidence that was collected.

Several guests at the hotel said they didn’t hear anything, but a college student from Maryland, who was on her way back to St. Bonaventure University and had stayed overnight, said she saw officers in the hallways on the first and second floors Saturday night, at the far end closest to the shooting.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com, gwarner@buffnews.com and jepstein@buffnews.com