Buffalo Police Officer Joseph Acquino may not have been shot – as previously assumed – and could have been injured when the air bag of the SUV he was trying to commandeer from the driver deployed as it crashed into the side of a house, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.
Although air bags are believed to have saved more than 40,000 lives since they were first introduced 30 years ago, they can cause serious and even fatal injuries when the driver or passenger isn't wearing a seat belt or is too close – or in contact with the air bag, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Police and witnesses say Acquino was partially inside the SUV when it crashed.
A source said Acquino's blood was found on the air bag inside Hernandez-Rossy's vehicle.
There also has been a massive nationwide recall of defective air bags but it's not known if the air bag involved in this incident fell under that recall.
Acquino and his partner Justin Tedesco had pulled over Jose Hernandez-Rossy for a traffic stop on Garfield Street in the Black Rock section of Buffalo. Buffalo police officials have not said why they stopped him.
Hernandez-Rossy allegedly tried to flee and Acquino was partially inside the car on the driver's side when sources and a witness said a boy on an electric minibike darted in front. Acquino steered the vehicle to avoid hitting the boy and the SUV smashed through a row of hedges and the side of a house at Garfield and Hartman Place.
Acquino suffered a serious injury to his ear in the incident. Witnesses at the scene said it appeared his ear was hanging off and that the police officer was screaming "I'm shot" and "Help me." Doctors at Erie County Medical Center performed surgery to reattach the ear.
Acquino's partner, Justin Tedesco, fired on the driver, Hernandez-Rossy, who ran several blocks before collapsing. He died of his injuries. Police have not recovered a gun connected to Hernandez-Rossy.
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