Robert E. Eloff says his failure to act appropriately the night William C. Sager Jr. received fatal brain injuries at Molly’s Pub should have no bearing on other police officers.
In a letter, his lawyer, Herbert L. Greenman, told Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda that Eloff takes complete responsibility for failing to behave appropriately “even as an off-duty police officer” while he was providing private security at the Main Street bar with a second off-duty officer.
“Mr. Eloff has always maintained that inappropriate actions taken by him ... were his own, and none of the other police officers at the scene should bear any responsibility for his actions,” Greenman said.
The letter to Derenda appears to be aimed at sparing Adam E. O’Shei, the other off-duty officer working as a security officer at the bar that night, any further discipline.
O’Shei has not been criminally charged but has been suspended as an officer. He remains under scrutiny in an internal affairs investigation of how he conducted himself the night of May 10 into May 11, 2014, while working security at Molly’s. His testimony helped convict Jeffrey J. Basil, the bar manager, who shoved the 28-year-old Sager down a flight of steps.
Derenda said Monday he cannot comment on O’Shei’s status because of the ongoing investigation.
Eloff resigned two weeks ago when he pleaded guilty in federal court to a misdemeanor civil rights violation in connection with Donald Hall, Sager’s friend. Eloff arrested Hall when he started asking questions about Sager’s condition.
Eloff’s resignation was part of a plea deal that could put him behind bars for up to a year when he is sentenced in October.
Joseph M. LaTona, O’Shei’s attorney, said Eloff is acting in an honorable manner by not trying to spread blame on others.
“I certainly commend Mr. Eloff for fully accepting responsibility for his actions and not attempting to place any degree of blame on anyone else who was at the scene that night,” LaTona said. “There is a great tendency among many people to point the finger at someone else for their conduct, and Mr. Eloff is a stand-up guy for accepting responsibility.” O’Shei cooperated with investigators every step of the way, LaTona said.
“He did everything that any citizen should expect of a member of the police department,” LaTona said, adding that after Eloff had placed handcuffs on the unconscious Sager at the demand of Basil, O’Shei told Eloff “to take off the handcuffs.”
“Officer O’Shei has been open and transparent throughout the entirety of this situation,” LaTona said. “He remains eager to return to work.”
O’Shei was initially suspended without pay, but under state law and the police contract, his salary was reinstated after 30 days.