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Two Buffalo officers did nothing to stop cellblock beating, police sources say

Two Buffalo police officers stood by and watched as a cellblock attendant beat a handcuffed prisoner they had arrested, The Buffalo News has learned.

Officers Joshua T. Craig and Anthony J. D’Agostino did not stop Matthew J. Jaskula as he grabbed the inmate from behind and slammed his face into a door at the cellblock, causing him to collapse and strike his face on the floor, three police sources said.

The officers have been suspended without pay and are under investigation by the police department’s Internal Affairs Division and the FBI.

The incident occurred the night of May 19 after Craig and D’Agostino arrested Shaun P. Porter in a domestic violence case.

Neither officer took any action to stop Jaskula from further harming Porter, the sources said. A video shows Craig laughing and D’Agostino appearing shocked, according to two of the three police sources familiar with the incident.

After Jaskula slammed Porter, he then dragged the 37-year-old man down a hall to an open cell, where Porter’s head struck the door frame, further injuring him, according to a federal criminal complaint released Thursday. Porter appeared limp and unresponsive in the video. The federal complaint charges Jaskula, 26, with depriving Porter of his rights under the color of law.

“This behavior will not be tolerated,” one police source said. “That’s why the officers have been suspended without pay along with the cellblock attendant.”

U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. declined to say if the two officers will be charged.

“The investigation into the entire incident is continuing and we will follow the facts and the law as we pursue this matter to its conclusion,” Hochul said.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said he was prohibited from commenting because of laws pertaining to personnel matters.

The Buffalo News filed a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the cellblock video, but the Police Department denied the request, saying permission for its release would be required from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

When Hochul was asked if his office would release the video, he declined.

“We do not provide evidence outside of a court proceeding,” Hochul said. “Any visual evidence would be part of the government’s case at a future trial.”

The Police Department’s Internal Affairs unit began investigating after two supervising police lieutenants at the cellblock, located in the basement of Buffalo City Court, became suspicious of Porter’s injuries. The lieutenants reviewed the video showing the attack within a day of the incident.

“They brought the video to Internal Affairs, which started an investigation. The department then contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI,” said the same police source who condemned the officers for not taking action to stop Jaskula. “The video shows the defendant is handcuffed and is not making any threatening physical gestures toward Jaskula.”

Prior to the attack, there was an apparent exchange of words between Jaskula and Porter.

After the attack, Jaskula placed Porter, who was profusely bleeding, into a restraint chair normally used for prisoners who put up a struggle. Porter remained in the chair for nearly two hours without receiving medical treatment, the federal complaint stated.

Jaskula allegedly told the supervising lieutenants that Porter had a bloody nose and refused treatment.

Porter complained of chest pains, and Craig and D’Agostino, on orders from one of the lieutenants, later took him to Erie County Medical Center’s emergency room. Porter received treatment for a broken nose and a cut between his right eye and nose.

Earlier that night, he had been arrested on the 500 block of Wilson Street and accused of hitting Nicola Reggler in the head. She had repeatedly asked him to leave her home before he attacked her, according to the arrest report Craig and D’Agostino filed. Porter also allegedly broke Reggler’s television. The officers charged him with third-degree assault, trespass, criminal mischief and harassment.

Jaskula, who appeared Friday in U.S. District Court, was released on $5,000 bail and is scheduled to return Aug. 9. If convicted, Jaskula, a city resident, could face up to 10 years in prison.

Michael Canfield of Buffalo News staff contributed to this report. email: lmichel@buffnews.com