A Buffalo Police lieutenant, apparently drunk and on duty, terrorized a group of people in an unprovoked incident in South Buffalo early Saturday morning, jamming his service weapon against the heads of several and threatening to kill them, members of the group said.
"He had a gun to my head," said Sue Lynn Tirado. "He said shut the . . . up, or I'll shoot you. I was never so scared in my life."
"He was totally wasted," added Jason Smith of Fulton Street. "It was nuts."
Lt. Michael Schuta of the South District was suspended with pay at 3:45 a.m. Saturday pending an investigation, Inspector Michael Gaspar of the Professional Standards Division confirmed. He declined to comment further. Efforts to reach Schuta were unsuccessful.
The incident occurred at about 3 a.m. Saturday on Smith Street, according to four people interviewed Saturday. All gave similar accounts:
About 10 friends were in front of Ms. Tirado's house at 272 Smith St. and on the porch of the house next door. They were drinking and talking about the recent death of their friend Matthew Drzymala, who died Thursday when he was knocked to the ground and struck his head. Another friend, Eric Bridenbaker, has been charged with manslaughter.
A pickup truck pulled up, and a uniformed policeman, gun in hand and white shirt askew, got out and began talking incoherently about the case, according to Dave Pawlak, Ms. Tirado's fiance.
"We didn't know what he was talking about, but then he ordered everyone up against the car and started frisking us and holding his gun against people's heads," said Pawlak, 30.
"He hit me in the side of the head with the gun and said, 'Shut up, or I'll kill you.' "
Mark Lemke, 27, of Playter Street said someone suggested to the officer that he call for backup, and he replied, "I got all the backup I need," referring to his gun.
The complainants said the officer was there 15 or 20 minutes when Lemke finally suggested he have a beer.
"He said OK, so I got him a beer, but then the other cops started coming, and he took off with the beer," Lemke said.
Other people saw what was going on and called 911.
The lieutenant drove off as other officers arrived but was stopped soon after. Other officers returned and apologized for what happened. They also were asked to go to Police Headquarters on Monday to file complaints.
The complainants said other officers told them Schuta was on duty at the time. They could not account for the fact he was driving his personal vehicle rather than a police car.
Schuta was promoted to lieutenant in December.