Joseph Golombek Jr. would be the first to tell you that of the nine members of the Buffalo Common Council, he's probably the least likely to get into it with a drug dealer.
"I teach history at Buff State," he said.
But last Monday, the generally mild-mannered councilman encountered what appeared to him to be a series of drug deals going down on his street in Riverside. He did what he always tells his constituents to do in these situations – he called the police.
That is when the man he suspected to be a dealer confronted him.
Here's what Golombek says happened:
The council member, who still lives in the same house he grew up in, was getting into his car on the evening of April 24 when he noticed a large, unfamiliar SUV parked across the street. Someone was sitting inside it. He called his mother, who lives in the unit below his, to see if she recognized it.
Then he looked up and down the street and noticed a lot of other nice cars parked on both sides of the normally, quiet street.
"There's no free spots," he remembered thinking. And there were people inside those cars.
Then, he saw a vehicle slowly drive down the middle of the street and the driver handing out packages and receiving money from the people in the cars.
"It was rather impressive," he said. "I saw about six to eight drug deals. Like a conveyor belt."
Golombek also smelled the distinct aroma of marijuana.
He wrote down the license plate of the car driving down the middle and several of the parked cars, too. Then he called police and shared his information.
Golombek said he then started driving when the man he believed had been dealing drugs pulled up next to him.
"Are you looking for me?" the man said.
Golombek said he normally is a calm person. But as a councilman and a longtime resident of his neighborhood, he often gets calls from constituents upset about drug dealing on their streets. It wasn't his usual style but Golombek replied to the man.
"Yeah, I am," Golombek said.
"What do you want?" the man said.
That's when the "old Riverside" in him let loose.
"I want you to get the **** out of my neighborhood… You're dealing on a councilman's street. Do you have a screw loose?" Golombek recounted saying.
Then he took a photo of the man with his phone.
"Now I have a photo of you," he told him.
The other man drove off.
Golombek started thinking of what he had done. He wasn't trying to be heroic. He was just angry. But he also realized he identified himself to the man and that he has a very distinctive looking car.
The councilman pulled over and called a friend who is a police officer. He told him to meet him at a parking lot nearby.
As Golombek sat in his car, he noticed two young men walk by staring at him. Then the other driver pulled up.
"The guy says to me: You know, I don’t want there to be problems between you and me. I don’t want to run into a store and there be a problem," the man said to Golombek.
The councilman said he couldn't help himself and started yelling at the three of them again, telling them to get out of his neighborhood.
The two young men hopped into the man's car and they drove off. Almost at the same moment, police cars arrived.
The police followed the three men and stopped them on a nearby street.
Nino E. Buggs of Gorton Street, Buffalo, was charged with criminal sale of marijuana, unlawful possession of marijuana, (a violation), driving without a license (infraction), and illegal signaling (an infraction), according to authorities.
Golombek later learned that at least half the license plates of the people buying drugs were registered to residents of Buffalo's suburbs.
In hindsight, Golombek realizes things could have turned out differently.
"Oh my gosh, this was so freakin' stupid," he remembered thinking. "It was simply adrenaline."
But at the same time, he knows how difficult it can be for police to make narcotics arrests without cooperation from witnesses.
"It's happening in every neighborhood," he said. He doesn't believe people should follow drug dealers around but they should call 911. "We have to work with our police department. That's what I did."