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Buffalo man shot by parole officer: 'These people were trying to kill me'

Randy White had just dropped off his friend Dwayne Gordon at Gordon’s home on Northumberland Avenue the night of Feb. 27 when a man appeared at the driver’s side window of White’s SUV and shined a flashlight in his face.

“You got some ID?” the man demanded, White said.

Moments later, the man yelled that White had a gun and a second man dove into White's vehicle and shot him in the leg, White said.

After struggling with the man who shot him inside his vehicle, driving back and forth and repeatedly telling him he wasn’t armed, the shooter bailed out.

White was taken into custody, then released without any charges.

It turns out the man who approached White in his SUV and the man who shot him were state parole officers. They were at the Northumberland address to check on Gordon, a parolee.

White, who is recovering from his gunshot wound, wants to know why he was shot.

“These people were trying to kill me,” he told The Buffalo News. “I didn’t know who they was. I didn’t know what was going on. All I know was I was fighting for my life.”

The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has released little information about the incident except to say in a statement that two parole officers were conducting a “routine residence visit” of a parolee when one of the officer’s weapons discharged.

Robert Montesano and Bernard Williams were the parole officers involved in the incident, a Corrections Department spokesman said. Gordon’s family identified Montesano as his assigned parole officer.

The Corrections Department referred questions about the incident to the Buffalo Police Department, which is handling the investigation. Buffalo police said they would not release any information until an investigation is completed.

'Hey bro, I need your help'

White, 37, is a married father of four daughters, who lives in South Buffalo. He and his wife own Better Living Management, a property management company. A few years ago, White hurt his back in a car accident and uses a walking stick to steady himself, he said.

White said that on Feb. 27, he was at one of his properties when Gordon called him. White wasn't sure of the time because Buffalo police seized his smartphone and have not returned it.

“Hey, bro. I need your help,” White said Gordon said to him. Gordon needed a ride home by his 9 p.m. curfew, White said.

White said he knew Gordon was on parole. Gordon had spent about five years in prison on an attempted robbery charge and was released in November, records show.

As a former parolee himself, White wanted to help Gordon by finding him work on one of his properties. White said he understands the importance of honest work and abiding by the rules of parole. White was 16 when he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempted robbery in the death of a store clerk. He said he was accused of being an accessory in the fatal shooting but that he had been “railroaded” and felt he had no choice but to plead guilty in the case.

On the night he was shot, White said he agreed to pick Gordon up at a friend’s house, but explained to him that he needed to stop at a liquor store owned by White’s family to write a check for a delivery.

Gordon was nervous about getting back to his home, White recalled. “We really gotta go, bro,” White said Gordon told him.

They left the liquor store and White drove to Gordon’s home on Northumberland, where Gordon lives with his mother and siblings.

White pulled into the driveway in front of the house and Gordon got out, he said.

“As he’s getting out, all I see is a man walk up to my vehicle with a flashlight in my eye,” White said.

The encounter

Because of the flashlight, White said he could not see the man well. He couldn’t tell that the man was a law enforcement officer, White said. The man did not identify himself as a parole officer, White said, but he demanded to see White’s ID.

“Yeah, I got some ID but I don’t even know who you is,” White said he told the man.

“Give me some ID now,” the man said. “Turn off your vehicle.”

White refused to turn off his engine, explaining he had to get home to his children, he said.

The man seemed to be “fine” with that but continued to demand to see ID.

As White reached into the back left pocket of his pants, he heard the man yell: “He’s got a gun!” The second man jumped into his car from the passenger side.

“He jumped in immediately and – Pow!” White said.

White was shot in the left thigh.

“Then he told me: ‘I’m going to shoot you again. I'm going to shoot you in the head,’ ” White said.

White said neither man ever identified himself as a parole officer. He said his only thought was to save his own life. He locked the doors to his vehicle, White said.

“I said: 'No, you’re not,’ ” and then threw his SUV into reverse.

White said the man who shot him aimed his gun at White’s head. “I grabbed his hand and pushed his hand toward my backseat. I took my knee and I pressed him up against my dashboard,” White said.

The man punched White several times in the face, White said. At the same time, White said he drove back and forth, and hit something, possibly a tree or a car.

They continued to struggle inside the car as White drove in the driveway and on Northumberland. The man patted him down around his waist and then rolled out of the SUV, White said.

White drove off, his leg bleeding profusely. The bullet had gone through his thigh. He said he headed to the nursing facility near downtown Buffalo where his wife works.

“If I die, I want her to know what happened,” White said he was thinking. “I don’t want her to get no messed-up story from these people.”

'Gun with a wooden handle'

That night, Shaniqua Cunningham was inside her family home on Northumberland with her 4-week-old daughter and three other children when she heard the commotion in the driveway. Cunningham said she wasn’t aware of her brother, Gordon, coming home but was alarmed to hear the sound of an engine revving and tires skidding.

She went to the window and saw a man standing on the grass with his gun drawn, pointed at the SUV. She said she heard the man say: “Freeze!”

She went to the front door and saw a blast of fire from the end of the gun, she said.

“I throw my kids underneath the table,” Cunningham said. Another relative dove on top of the baby.

Moments later, a parole officer, identified by Cunningham and other family members as Montesano, banged on the front door and came in. “Where’s Dwayne?” he yelled over and over.
Gordon came downstairs in his boxers, Cunningham said.

More law enforcement officers arrived and they took Gordon, his brother and Cunningham’s fiancé into custody. After questioning, Gordon was taken to jail for allegedly violating his parole.

Radio dispatches from that night indicate a frantic scene. At 9:09 p.m., a dispatcher says there’s an incident on “Evelyn,” then corrects the address to “Umberland.”

“They were screaming on the air,” the dispatcher said.

At 9:15 p.m. a description of a vehicle goes out: “Blue van, possibly going to Buffalo General.”

White said his vehicle is a midnight blue, 2011 Dodge Journey SUV.

At 9:18 p.m. a description of a person is given on the radio: “Blue hat, black hoodie, stocky male. Black. .38 gun with a wooden handle.” It's not clear whether the dispatcher meant the suspect was black or the gun was. White said although he looks African-American, he is actually Native American and Irish.

A few minutes later, the dispatcher gives the license plate number, then White’s name and address.

White adamantly denies carrying a gun that day.

“I didn’t have no kind of weapon whatsoever,” White said.

When he arrived at his wife’s workplace that night, he asked her to drive him to Mercy Hospital, which is near their home.

As they approached the intersection of Bailey Avenue and Seneca Street, the couple saw a police car turn around toward them. White said he told his wife to take a side street near their home toward North Legion Drive.

Buffalo police cars were there waiting for him. Multiple officers had their guns drawn as one pulled White out of the car.

White asked if he could get his walking stick, which was still in the front passenger seat, he said, but the officer told him not to touch it.

White said police officers handcuffed him to a gurney. They also handcuffed his wife. White was loaded onto an ambulance and taken to Erie County Medical Center.

At ECMC, White said he was given an IV and his wound was bandaged. Then he was brought downtown to Buffalo police headquarters where he was questioned in the homicide unit. He was in excruciating pain and still bleeding badly, he said.

“I’m the victim,” White said he told the police officers. “I’m not no criminal.”

After about 45 minutes, the police took White back to ECMC where he had his wound redressed.

No charges have been filed against him. Gordon remains at the Erie County Holding Center. His parole violation hearing was set for March 28.

'You tried to take my life'

The day after the shooting, White said he called the Buffalo police and volunteered to come in for further questioning. Detectives have also come to his house twice, including once to take a DNA swab.

White said he doesn’t blame the officer who shot him for pulling the trigger. He understands that the man’s partner said there was a gun. But he said there was no reason for the situation to escalate to a point where he got shot.

“What I blame them for is not taking the proper precautions,” he said. “He could have said: ‘Put your hands on the steering wheel.’ ”

After learning about the radio dispatch about the gun “with a wooden handle,” White speculated that it’s possible the parole officer mistook his walking stick for a revolver.

In the meantime, White said more than two weeks after the shooting that he’s still waiting for the police to return his SUV and other belongings.

White wants the Department of Corrections to reconsider arming parole officers with guns. “Why are you out here with real guns shooting people recklessly?” he questioned. “No one is trying to shoot at parole officers.” Parole officers are issued 9 mm Glocks, corrections officials said.

White said he has contacted a lawyer and is considering his options.

“You tried to take my life,” White said of the officers.

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