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Safety on gun saves officer from shot to the chest

The armed robber pushed the loaded .45 caliber handgun into Officer Anthony Fanara’s chest and pulled on the trigger.

He couldn’t squeeze. The gun’s safety prevented the weapon from discharging.

It all happened in an instant one night last month when Fanara and two other members of the police department’s Strike Force interrupted a robbery in progress near Schiller Park. Now the department intends to honor their bravery.

“In a heartbeat, they were faced with an armed subject and were in a hand-to-hand fight for their lives,” Lt. David Wilcox wrote in a memo to Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda.

The confrontation began at about 11:15 p.m. June 15 at Doat Street and Stewart Avenue when the officers, in two separate patrol vehicles, spotted the robbery. Fanara, in one vehicle, and Officers Joseph Acquino and Bradford Pitts, in the other, began a foot chase, with Fanara in the lead.

Other officers heard the details of the pursuit over their radios. The details were not good.

“The radio echoed that the suspect had a gun in his right hand,” Wilcox stated.

What the three officers did not know at the time was that the man they were chasing was leading them into familiar territory – the unlit backyard where he lived at 92 Stewart. But before the suspect could use that home turf to his advantage, Fanara leaped onto him.

“It was at this time Officer Fanara tackled and began fighting to gain control of the suspect and his weapon. Officer Fanara found himself with the gun pressed to his chest. The suspect pulled the trigger. The gun safety was still on. Simultaneously Officer Acquino came to assist and knocked the loaded 45-caliber gun out of the suspect’s hand. The suspect was handcuffed by Officer Pitts,” Wilcox wrote.

Acquino then recovered the gun.

After that, the lieutenant said, it took the officers a few minutes to regroup and regain their composure.

“The above actions took barely a minute to unfold from start to finish. In that short time, the officers performed their duties to the fullest of their capabilities. The Buffalo Police Department, City of Buffalo, and citizens of Buffalo should be proud to have such fine officers serving and protecting,” Wilcox stated.

Derenda agreed with that assessment.

“We expect to present them with awards for bravery,” the commissioner said.

Andre Fuller, 18, was charged with three felonies, criminal possession of a loaded weapon, attempted assault of a police officer with a deadly weapon and attempted robbery with a firearm; and four misdemeanors, criminal possession of a controlled substance, menacing with a weapon, resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration.

Chief Aaron Young, head of the Strike Force, said he marveled at Fanara’s resilience, explaining that sometimes officers will take a couple days off after having a close call on the job.

“But Officer Fanara wanted to return to his regular patrol duties and continued his shift, which shows how dedicated and hardworking he is for the police department and city,” Young said.