Former Buffalo firefighter William "Tony" Guilford was acquitted Thursday of deliberately shooting a Buffalo police narcotics investigator during a nighttime raid on his fiancee's Sanford Street flat.
Guilford, 24, grinned, sighed and pounded the defense table as the jury announced its verdict shortly before 5 p.m., finding him innocent of first-degree assault charges in the Nov. 16, 1988, shooting of Officer Carl Thompson.
Calling the case the kind of "traumatic experience" he never wants to endure again, Guilford said he is sure the two 911 police emergency calls that his fiancee, Turia "Michelle" Lewis, 22, made during the raid convinced the jury the shooting was self-defense.
Thompson said today that the verdict makes him worry that other drug suspects will shoot police officers during raids and successfully defend themselves in court as Guilford did.
"This is really going to make drug raids scary," Thompson said. "We're all going to be wondering if somebody can shoot us and get off by claiming they thought we were burglars."
Guilford knew for several months before the raid that Thompson was investigating him in connection with marijuana dealing on Sanford Street, Thompson said. In one street conversation, Thompson said, he told Guilford that he represented a bad role model to children who would normally look up to a city firefighter.
He added that Guilford has never apologized to him for the shooting.
Guilford had told the jury he fired a shotgun five times at plainclothes police officers because he thought they were burglars staging another break-in in the high-crime area.
Guilford said he will consult lawyers about getting his job back with the Fire Department.
"I'm after my job as a firefighter as of right now," he said. "Hopefully that will be as successful as this (trial)."
After 19 months as a member of the Fire Department, Guilford was fired in December 1988 after he was indicted in the assault. The grand jury that reviewed the case dropped attempted murder and drug counts.
The detective said that he doesn't think the city should agree to rehire Guilford.
"As a minority recruit, as a black man like myself, he's a role model for kids," Thompson said. "He was running a dope house. That sets a bad example.
"But in a way, I hope he gets his job back. That way I can sue him and get some money."
The jury's verdict was announced to County Judge Timothy J. Drury about 20 minutes after the panel listened again to tape-recordings of Miss Lewis' two calls to 911.
Defense attorney Mark J. Mahoney called the wounding of the officer an "honest mistake" made by someone acting in self-defense.
The calls to the police emergency number support the claims of Guilford and Miss Lewis that they didn't hear police identify themselves and thought they were burglars, Mahoney said.
Testifying in his own defense Monday, Guilford said, "I didn't think it was the police out there; I thought that I was going to die that night."
Guilford also disputed the claims of Thompson and other police officers about where the officer was shot.
Thompson said he is unhappy with the verdict but does not blame the jury for acquitting Guilford.
"Based on what they were presented in court, maybe they felt they had to do that. They saw a reasonable doubt that he was guilty," Thompson said. "But in my heart, and in his heart, we both know what he did. He knew I was a police officer and he was going after me."
Police witnesses insisted Thompson was shot in the left leg and buttocks while still in the living room of Miss Lewis' flat, but Guilford said he was shot outside the house during an exchange of gunfire with police.
Thompson said Guilford had been the target of a "no-knock" drug raid. Police said they found a minute quantity of marijuana and some cocaine residue in the flat.
Miss Lewis testified that her father, Clarence "Pops" Lewis, and her brother and two sisters had dealt in illicit drugs in her flat.
Guilford had been jailed from the day of the shooting until Dec. 20, 1988. He was jailed again last April after he failed three drug tests and failed to show up for court-ordered drug and alcoholism counseling ordered by Drury last spring.
In December, State Supreme Court Justice Vincent E. Doyle Jr. ordered Guilford's release from custody. He ruled that Drury had overstepped his Authority in revoking his $10,000 bail.