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Man sentenced to 7½ years for shooting police officer

A West Seneca man has been sentenced to 7½ years in prison for wounding a Buffalo police officer and himself as he tried to run away from police in May.

Jeffrey Thomas, 22, of Harlem Road, pleaded guilty in July to second-degree assault and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon before State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski for the May 25 shooting of Officer Joseph R. Hassett on Eldon Road.

Hassett received the Medal of Honor, the Police Department’s highest distinction, in June ceremonies at Buffalo Police Headquarters for subduing Thomas. Hassett had received a tip about a man with a gun near Eggert Road and LaSalle Avenue.

As Hassett’s patrol car approached, Thomas motioned toward his waistband for what appeared to be a handgun and fled, police said.

Hassett chased Thomas on foot. As Thomas tried to scale a five-foot fence, he fired a shot that struck Hassett below his knee. Hassett clung to Thomas until his partner handcuffed the suspect.

Thomas suffered a minor wound to his hand from the bullet before it struck the officer.

Thomas faced a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, according to Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.