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Buffalo man gets 16 years for standoff with SWAT team

A vehicle stop that escalated into a SWAT situation is ending with a long prison sentence for one of the car’s passengers.

Tarell Smith, 34, of Buffalo received a indeterminate sentence of 16 years to life in prison Wednesday on his conviction in a nonjury trial in December for criminal possession of a loaded firearm.

Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk noted this was the mandatory minimum sentence he could order because of Smith’s status as a persistent violent felony offender.

Smith has spent “a substantial portion of his life incarcerated,” according to his attorney, David Addelman. He was riding in a car on June 18, 2014 – three months after he was released from prison for the second time – when it encountered a police traffic checkpoint near Walden Avenue. When officers noticed that Smith appeared nervous, he drew his weapon. The driver escaped the car, but Smith held officers at bay by pointing the gun at the front seat passenger and at himself. He eventually surrendered the gun and was arrested.

SWAT team members responded to the scene but, according to Addelman, Smith never was a serious threat to anyone else.

“The person who was most at risk was my client, who for most of the time was pointing the gun at himself while a sniper had a gun pointed at him,” he said.