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Cop, with an echo from past, uses force but not lethally; Disarms knife-wielding man with gunshot an instant before shotgun would have fired

A Buffalo police officer, for the second time in his 30-year career, has wounded an individual who was attacking or preparing to attack him.

In both instances, the wounds were nonfatal.

Lt. Michael A. March's shooting of a 69-year-old Black Rock man Wednesday evening occurred as the man lunged with a knife at the lieutenant and two other officers.

March fired his .40-caliber handgun an instant before another officer pointing a shotgun at James J. Enyedy Sr. could fire what would have been a devastating blast at close range, authorities said.

Enyedy was so close to the three officers in the tight space of a second-floor apartment hallway that his knife was nearly touching the shotgun's barrel, police said.

March's gunshot blew off Enyedy's right pinkie finger and struck the right side of his torso, damaging only muscle tissue, according to police, who said his wounds were not life-threatening.

The Northwest District officers were called to the 100 block of Hamilton Street to assist members of an ambulance crew who were having difficulty with a man threatening them with a knife.

"March is unflappable, and it was just his luck of the draw to end up in another one of these shooting situations," Thomas H. Burton, chief attorney for the Police Benevolent Association, said Thursday.

Anyone who would consider March to be eager to use his gun would be wrong, said Lt. James W. Panus, PBA president.

"I worked with Mike for a year in the D District, and he is a supervisor who goes from call to call with his troops," Panus said. "There have been times when a person would have to be forcibly taken to the ground and handcuffed, and I have seen Mike verbally talk him down and handcuff him peacefully."

The other instance of March shooting a suspect occurred in 1988, when Carmen Spataro, a West Side man whom he was trying to arrest, grabbed his nightstick and began pounding him on the head and back, police said.

Spataro was shot several times and underwent surgery. He was charged with grand larceny, weapons possession, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

A review of the incident by the Erie County District Attorney's Office determined that March had acted properly in using force.

Chief of Detectives Dennis J. Richards on Thursday described March as a "cop's cop."

"He is an excellent supervisor and leader, and he is very fortunate that harm did not come his way in Wednesday's incident," Richards said.

The son of a former Buffalo police officer, March is currently on a paid administrative leave, which is standard departmental practice after a police shooting while investigators from the Homicide and Internal Affairs bureaus review the incident.

"Upon conclusion, they will provide their findings, and then we will make a determination as to whether this case will be presented to a grand jury," District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said.

Panus said described March as "the kind of supervisor who doesn't ask his personnel to do anything he wouldn't do himself. He routinely responds to calls with his officers, and if you're going to be out there and answering calls, it is inevitable in this line of work that you're going to encounter very dangerous and traumatic situations."

Arriving at the scene at about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, police learned from relatives that the man had apparently stopped taking his medications and was suicidal.

March and Officers Obed Casillas and Robert W. Yeates then tried to approach Enyedy, who had barricaded himself in a second-floor bedroom of his rear apartment. But he was not interested in help, police said.

Enyedy then began waving a knife at the officers who backed up into the hallway, according to police.

"He was shot after lunging at officers while armed with the knife and telling the officers that they'll have to shoot him," Richards said.

Enyedy was treated at the scene and then taken to Erie County Medical Center, where he remained hospitalized late Thursday. He was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, reckless endangerment, two counts of menacing, and obstructing emergency medical personnel.

Court proceedings for Enyedy have yet to be scheduled.