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Brothers wind up on either side of the law; Sibling's arrest shocks deputy commissioner

When drug investigators went to the LaSalle Avenue home of Dale Lockwood on the morning of March 3, Lockwood had some news for them.

"Do you have any idea who I am?" he exclaimed. "My brother's the deputy police commissioner!

"We don't care who your brother is," one cop responded, pressing Lockwood -- a suspected cocaine dealer -- up against a wall and searching him for weapons.

He wasn't the only Lockwood arrested that day.

Two of Dale Lockwood's sons and his grandson also were arrested. Police confiscated seven guns, including an Uzi assault rifle and several handguns with their serial numbers scratched off, from family members' houses, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said. Police also said they found $71,000 in drug money hidden in Dale Lockwood's home.

It was a tough day for the Lockwoods -- not only for the four men arrested, but also for Byron C. Lockwood.

Byron is Dale Lockwood's brother, and he is a deputy commissioner in the Buffalo Police Department. But law enforcement officials who conducted the drug probe said they found no evidence that Byron Lockwood had anything to do with his family's alleged crimes.

Dale Lockwood was not the only drug suspect to claim connections to the deputy commissioner, police said.

John C. Smith, accused of being a major cocaine trafficker associated with the Afro Dogs biker club, was caught on a wiretap phone conversation, allegedly boasting about his connection to the deputy commissioner.

"My man's brother is a deputy police commissioner," Smith allegedly told a drug associate in a wiretapped phone call that was mentioned in court. "And he lets me know what's going on."

The Lockwood family arrests and Smith's remark raised some eyebrows among local law enforcement officials, but the deputy commissioner denies having anything to do with the alleged drug activities of his brother, Smith or anyone else.

>Limited contact

After the arrests, the 52-year-old deputy commissioner said he was "shocked and disappointed." He added that, in recent years, he has had "very limited" contact with his brother or the others who were arrested.

And agents so far have found no evidence that Byron Lockwood was helping criminals in any way, said the DEA official who supervised the investigation, Dale M. Kasprzyk.

"We conducted physical surveillance and listened to John Smith, day and night, for five months," Kasprzyk told The Buffalo News. "We never once saw Byron Lockwood in his presence and never heard him talk to [Byron Lockwood] on the phone."

When asked about Smith's boast about getting information from the deputy commissioner's brother, Kasprzyk said it is not unusual for criminals to try to impress others by bragging -- sometimes falsely -- about their connections.

"We have no information linking the deputy commissioner to criminal activity," Kasprzyk said.

The drug case has not hurt Lockwood in the eyes of the man who appointed him to his job, Mayor Byron W. Brown. He spoke highly of Lockwood during an interview a week after the drug bust.

"Obviously, [John Smith] didn't know everything, because he has been arrested," the mayor said. "It doesn't matter who you are, or who you think you're connected to. No one is immune."

Byron Lockwood, a lifelong city resident and a cop since 1984, said he was not told of the investigation aimed at his brother until about a half-hour before his brother was picked up.

Lockwood said he never shared any police information with his brother and added that his brother never asked him to share information.

"We lead separate lives," said the deputy commissioner, a solidly built man whose eyeglasses give him a studious appearance. "I've never talked about police investigations or sensitive activities to anyone outside of police personnel."

Community activist Darnell Jackson Sr., a 53-year-old ex-convict, said he has known Lockwood for more than 40 years. He said both he and Lockwood ran with East Side gangs.

As youngsters, he said, "we used to get into fights with each other."

"If you grew up where we did, everyone was involved with a gang," Jackson said. "Byron was always a good guy, one of the better kids in the neighborhood. He graduated from high school and went into the police academy. I went off into another direction."

Lockwood responded: "[That] was 40 years ago. Growing up back then on the East Side, the neighborhoods were tough. Instead of choosing a life of crime, I chose a life to protect and serve the public."

>An exemplary cop

Although some question the role of politics in his elevation from the rank of detective sergeant to deputy commissioner -- the No. 2 position in the entire department -- in 2006, Lockwood has been an exemplary cop, most colleagues say.

After several years of uniformed patrol duty, he was assigned to the department's Intelligence Unit, investigating drive-by shootings, kidnappings and other gangster crimes.

He later worked in the Homicide Bureau and then as the supervisor of detectives in the Ferry-Fillmore District.

He has been active for years with the Afro-American Police Association, and he served for several years as president of the organization starting in 1994.

Colleagues in the department know him as a soft-spoken man, but in October 1994, Lockwood made some noise with public accusations about misconduct in the department.

Calling a news conference, Lockwood charged that a small group of trigger-happy officers was endangering citizens in the minority community. He didn't name names but said some officers were acting "lawlessly."

"Your irresponsible and illegal behavior will not be tolerated," Lockwood said, in his highly unusual public critique.

Later, according to colleagues and city officials, Lockwood became a big booster of Grassroots, the political organization that helped put Brown in the mayor's office.

Supporters say Grassroots has done many good things to help city neighborhoods, but detractors note that, in the late 1990s, at least four Grassroots volunteers were prosecuted on federal drug-trafficking charges. One of those individuals, who went to federal prison, was identified as a "major crack cocaine trafficker."

City Hall officials said Lockwood was close to Brown for years prior to 2006, when Brown named H. McCarthy Gipson as his police commissioner and Lockwood and Daniel Derenda as deputy commissioners. Derenda became commissioner last year after the mayor fired Gipson.

Some police officers were miffed because Lockwood and Derenda were detective sergeants, an appointed rank, and had never attained any civil service rank above patrolman. Deputy commissioners currently make more than $102,000, just $3,000 less than the mayor's annual salary.

>'Cain and Abel story'

Lockwood said his experience and hard work -- and not politics -- are the reasons he became a deputy commissioner.

"I'm proud of my 27 years on the force," he said. "To this day, I've never called in sick once."

"I think Byron is a good man, but I also think he became a deputy commissioner through politics," said John Eberhart, another former president of the Afro-American Police Association who retired from the Police Department in 2008. "Politics is the system we work under in Buffalo."

The mayor said he appointed Lockwood as deputy commissioner because he was well-qualified for the job.

Common Council Members Bonnie E. Russell of the University District, the Rev. Darius G. Pridgen of the Ellicott District and David A. Rivera of the Niagara District, a retired police detective, all spoke highly of Lockwood and called him a trustworthy individual.

Pridgen and Rivera said it would be unfair to let the actions of relatives who got arrested taint the deputy commissioner.

"It's like a Cain and Abel story," Pridgen remarked. "You have one brother who may have taken a bad path, and the other who has become a good public servant."

>Previous record

Dale Lockwood, 58, already had a felony drug-dealing conviction on his record from years ago when the DEA and the Buffalo FBI office began investigating him in the Afro Dogs case last year, prosecutors said.

Police had an arrest warrant for Dale Lockwood, charging him with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine, when they went to his home early on March 3. Investigators said Dale Lockwood invoked his brother's name almost immediately but was locked up anyway.

While searching the home, investigators found two loaded handguns under Dale Lockwood's mattress.

His sons Dale Jr., 30, and Vincent, 25, were arrested in the house on state felony gun possession charges. Charles Lockwood, 21, identified by police as Dale Lockwood's grandson, was also arrested on the same charge.

Several handguns with defaced serial numbers, a sawed-off shotgun and an Uzi assault weapon were among the guns recovered, prosecutors said.

All of the Lockwoods pleaded not guilty, and police said they found $71,000 hidden in two locations in the Lockwood home.

Eberhart, who was a Buffalo police officer for 37 years, said he sympathizes with Byron Lockwood's situation.

"Over the years, a lot of police officers have had brothers or friends who were on the wrong side of the law. I don't believe there is any way Byron would get involved with his brother's activities," Eberhart said.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com and bmeyer@buffnews.comd

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