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5 days later, NFTA admits officer's bullet did strike motorist

When a Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Transit Police officer fired a shot at a vehicle during a traffic stop last week, the agency said it didn't know if anyone was struck by the gunfire.

It turns out, the officer's bullet struck the vehicle's driver in the hand last Thursday, the NFTA has revealed.

Devere D. Thomas, 21, of Buffalo, has been charged with attempted assault on a police officer after authorities alleged he tried striking an officer with his vehicle during an attempt to flee the area. The officer who was nearly struck while standing near the front of the car fired the shot that traveled through the vehicle's windshield.

At a news conference last Thursday, NFTA Transit Police Chief George W. Gast told assembled media NFTA did not know if anyone was hit by gunshots.

At the time of the news conference, Gast "was not aware as to the extent of any possible injuries or how they may have been incurred," NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said in an email.

"The car crashed into a construction Dumpster and the suspect fled the scene of the crash," Hartmayer said. "Upon an examination at [Erie County Medical Center] it was later determined the shot that was fired did in fact hit the suspect's finger on his left hand."

After police initially said no one was shot, authorities have acknowledged Devere D. Thomas, 21, was shot in the hand by a Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Transit Police officer last week. (Erie County Sheriff's Office)

At that news conference, Gast said the driver and the officer who fired the shot received medical attention, but the injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

The traffic stop happened at about 12:10 p.m. Thursday near Main and West Utica streets after Thomas' vehicle was allegedly illegally parked in front of a bus stop. A police officer pulled up and Thomas' vehicle drove into a Burger King parking lot on Main Street, which was when the officer turned on his flashing lights. A second officer arrived and they both approached the vehicle, according to authorities.

[Related: Buffalo brothers charged in incident in which NFTA police officer shot at vehicle]

The vehicle took off, the shot was fired and the vehicle ended up crashing a short distance away on Northampton Street, police have said. Both Devere Thomas and the passenger, identified as his brother, Juri Thomas, 36, got out of the vehicle. Juri Thomas was detained at the scene, while Devere Thomas ran down Main Street and onto Coe Place, where he was apprehended and arrested.

Devere Thomas was also charged with resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration. He's due in Buffalo City Court on Wednesday afternoon. Juri Thomas was charged with a parole violation after failing a urine test. Police reported they smelled marijuana coming from the car.

Juri Thomas was on parole from charges stemming from a 2007 shooting, authorities have said. Both brothers are being held in the Erie County Holding Center.

Neither of the officers has been publicly identified by authorities. The officer who fired the shot was placed on paid administrative leave as an internal investigation continued.

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