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Police fail to view new tape in car case Mayor's SUV, driver are shown, college says

Canisius College officials told Buffalo police Monday they have a second surveillance tape showing the person who crashed and ditched Mayor Byron W. Brown's Chevrolet Equinox six weeks ago. But as far as Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson knew Thursday, no one from the Police Department had looked at it.

Gipson said he just learned about the second tape Wednesday and expected to see it today.

As for the first tape, which Gipson looked at weeks ago, he said that, unlike the mayor, he could not conclude the suspect does not walk like the mayor's son walks because the camera does not capture fluid movement.

The second tape might give detectives more to go on, though the teenager still cannot be recognized.

The tape shows the teen running and then walking in the general direction of the mayor's home and shows the teen wearing a distinctive jacket.

It shows the Equinox was driven past the mayor's house after striking two parked vehicles.

And it shows other people were out on that cold Saturday morning -- potential witnesses.

Since Gipson has yet to see the tape and speak to its value, it's too soon to say whether it will help identify the driver of the sport utility vehicle Feb. 24 and whether the vehicle indeed had been stolen, as the mayor and his wife say.

Canisius College on Wednesday permitted a student whose truck was ruined by the mayor's Equinox to view the recently found images.

Student Janelle Tryjankowski also saw, for her first time, the initial set of pictures that Gipson, the mayor and his wife viewed soon after the crash.

Tryjankowski became the first person outside the mayor's circle to discuss the images publicly. The details she disclosed raised new questions about who is responsible:

*While the mayor last week said the teenager on the first Canisius tape walked nothing like the way his teenage son walks, Tryjankowski said the tapes do not show the person's gait. The Canisius camera takes three photos every five seconds, not several frames a second like a movie camera or a video camera. The Canisius camera captured his flight in the same way a strobe light freezes a series of movements.

"What you are seeing is . . . choppy," Tryjankowski said. "You can't see how the person is walking at all."

Brown's police commissioner agreed.

"It's hard to gauge a walking style," Gipson said, but he added that a father knows a son's gait better than he would.

*Gipson, who serves at the mayor's pleasure, has been involved throughout the probe and opted not to dust the SUV for fingerprints on the belief that such a young thief would not have fingerprints in the database. Also, he did not ask Brown's son if he owns a jacket like the one worn by the fleeing driver -- dark with a vertical ring pattern on each shoulder.

"His mother said she didn't recognize the jacket on the initial viewing," Gipson said.

*Other mayoral appointees have fended off Buffalo News requests to see the first Canisius videotapes. In fact, they say the city did not take a copy from Canisius.

If city officials had done so, the copy would be subject to public release under New York's Freedom of Information Law. Canisius College, a private institution not covered by the Sunshine Law, also has refused requests from The News to see the images.

A college spokeswoman said Canisius officials offered the second tape to police Monday after realizing the incident may have been recorded on another of the cameras positioned in and around the campus.

*The second video shows that the driver, after hitting two parked autos on Blaine Avenue near Meech, did not just back up and drive directly to the spot where he abandoned the vehicle a few blocks away. He backed up and continued down Blaine, going past the mayor's house and then around the block, via Jefferson Avenue and then Hughes Avenue.

The Canisius camera picked up the car on Hughes, and another camera caught it being abandoned in front of 121 Loring Ave., near a residence hall.

The driver did not then run farther away from the wrecked autos at Blaine and Meech. After retrieving something from the SUV -- perhaps an item of clothing, Tryjankowski thought -- he shut the door and ran down Meech, in the direction of the accident. Then he turned right on Hughes Avenue and eventually slowed to a walk until moving out of the camera's sight.

Tryjankowski agreed the teen cannot be recognized. But seen on the tape was a woman pushing a baby buggy. Another man walked nearby. Another driver headed down Hughes. All might have information to offer should police find them.

The incident also is being examined by the mayor's insurer, Allstate. The company has determined that it will not pay for damage to the parked autos if it agrees the mayor's Equinox was stolen.

The mayor's wife, Michelle Austin-Brown, reported the car stolen hours after the accident and after Gipson had taken her to see the damaged Equinox on Loring Avenue. The car had not been broken into, and its ignition system had not been overridden.

Police surmised the operator had a key when he took the SUV from in front of the mayor's residence. The operator was driving it back down the same street when he hit the two parked cars just before 7 a.m.

According to televised reports Thursday night, Mayor Brown will address the issue in a news conference at 11 a.m. today.

Interviewed a week ago, Brown said he and his 16-year-old son, who has a learner's permit, had traveled the night before the incident to the Jamestown area, where Byron III played in a basketball tournament.

When they returned home at about 10:30 p.m., he said his son was "dead tired." The mayor said his son would never be up on a Saturday before 7 a.m. unless roused for a family obligation. Besides, said Brown, he and his wife were up by 6 a.m.

"We knew he was in the house. And even if he had had the ability to sneak out, he couldn't have slipped back in without us knowing," the mayor said a week ago.

e-mail: mspina@buffnews.com

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