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Man killed by officer didn't steal police car Parolee shot after stop for questioning flared

Details began emerging Monday about a complicated -- and deadly -- series of events that left a Buffalo police car stolen, a parolee stopped by police for questioning, the parolee being fatally shot by an officer he attacked, and the dying man running from the scene as the officer collapsed in the street.

Authorities now say that the man who was fatally shot, John A. Sordetto, 25, was not the person who stole the marked police car earlier Sunday morning.

But as a condition of his parole, he was supposed to be in a halfway house on Bailey Avenue at the time he was stopped for questioning.

Even though Sordetto wasn't the police-car thief, an attorney for the Buffalo police union called it a clear-cut justified shooting in the city's Black Rock section.

The shooting occurred as Sordetto, who had fled from police trying to handcuff him, punched Police Officer Mark P. Andrzejak in the eye and tried to grab the officer's handgun, Police Benevolent Association attorney Thomas H. Burton said Monday.

"You're rolling around on the ground with someone, and he's trying to pull your gun away," Burton said. "That's classic 'imminent use of deadly physical force.' There's no requirement that the officer has to wait until the bad guy takes control of his weapon."

Authorities described the bizarre scene that greeted responding Buffalo police officers on the 400 block of Tonawanda Street at about 5 a.m. Sunday. Knowing that shots had been fired, they saw a civilian fleeing from the scene and a fellow officer lying facedown on the street, unresponsive.

It must have been difficult for them not to believe that the officer had been shot and, at least, seriously wounded.

They quickly caught the man, Sordetto, and when they went to put him in handcuffs, they noticed he had been shot in the chest. He was taken to Erie County Medical Center, where he died later that morning.

Andrzejak, 35, also was taken to ECMC, where he was treated for head and eye injuries before being released. He has reported off-duty and still is seeking medical treatment for some eye problems.

The evidence from the incident, like virtually all fatal shootings by police, is expected to go to an Erie County grand jury to determine whether there was any wrongdoing by the officer.

Burton, though, remains confident that the officer will be cleared.

"When the officer shot him, he had run out of nonlethal options," the attorney said.

The string of events that ultimately led to the deadly confrontation began at about 4:30 a.m. Sunday at Fillmore and Rodney avenues, according to police reports. A man later identified as Wayne B. Candler Sr., 41, was stopped there and placed in the back of a patrol car.

But while police apparently were looking through his vehicle, Candler "climbed into the driver's seat and drove off with the vehicle," according to his arrest papers.

A description of the thief was broadcast over the police radio. Meanwhile, the police car was recovered across town, in Black Rock, near Austin Street and Joslyn Place, law enforcement sources said. The driver had fled.

Nearby, apparently on Tonawanda Street, police noticed a man fitting the description of the police-car thief, and they approached him, asking him who he was and where he lived. An officer pulled out his handcuffs, and the man, later identified as Sordetto, took off, police officials said.

Police caught the fleeing man, and when Andrzejak tried to handcuff him, he was punched in the eye, Burton said. The officer tried to punch back, with the handcuffs, but the two men began rolling on the ground.

As Andrzejak felt the man pulling at his holster, the officer dropped the handcuffs, reached for his gun and later tried to hit him in the head with it, Burton said.

"The officer ends up on his back, pulls out his gun, and he thought the guy would back off," Burton said. "The guy kept lunging at him, on the ground, so he shot him [at close range]."

Andrzejak began staggering and collapsed unconscious on the street. But before he passed out, he noticed a number on a telephone pole and radioed for help, using the telephone-pole number to pinpoint his location.

Responding officers then apprehended Sordetto and discovered his fatal wound.

State Corrections Department records show that Sordetto served about 2 1/2 years in state prison on an attempted-burglary conviction before he was paroled in March. Computer records also show convictions on 10 previous charges, including resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration.

Burton pointed out why parolees can be so dangerous, when they're caught somewhere they're not supposed to be. "They know that if there is a violation of their parole conditions, they're going back to jail," he said.

Later Sunday, Buffalo police, with the help of other police agencies, caught the man accused of stealing the patrol car and later a vehicle belonging to Consumers Beverages.

Candler was pulled over at Fuhrmann Boulevard and Tifft Street at about 1:15 p.m. and charged with two counts each of possession of stolen property and unauthorized use of a vehicle, according to arrest reports.