The family of Craig E. Lehner, the Buffalo Police officer who died while doing dive training, has filed a claim against the city for wrongful death, according to a spokesman for the Buffalo Police Department.
Michael J. DeGeorge, Buffalo Police spokesman, confirmed Friday evening that the notice of claim was served on the city this week.
"The city has received the notice of claim and at this time it's pending litigation," DeGeorge said in an email to The Buffalo News.
The filing, which was delivered to the city earlier this week, is not a lawsuit but a possible prelude to one if Lehner's family should decide to sue the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Police Department in connection with the 34-year-old Lehner's death in October.
Lehner, along with other members of the Buffalo Police's underwater recovery team, were tethered together on a training mission on Oct. 13 when Lehner went missing in the Niagara River.
His disappearance sparked a frantic five-day search by law enforcement personnel from 50 agencies from across the state and Canada, who sent first responders to assist in the search and recovery efforts.
Earlier Friday evening, a police source who was familiar with the situation also confirmed that the Lehner family had taken the step.
Lehner’s body was found floating in the river a few thousand feet north of the International Railway Bridge on Oct. 17.
Lehner when found was still wearing much of his gear, according to Buffalo Police.
That included his air tanks, a regulator, a buoyancy compensator and 40-pound weight belt, though his face mask was missing, according to reports at the time.
The final results of an autopsy conducted by the Erie County Medical Examiner have determined Lehner's cause of death as drowning, according to a different police source.
In the days after his body was recovered, preliminary autopsy results had listed drowning as the unofficial cause of death.
Lehner, a nine-year veteran of the Buffalo police force, was a K-9 officer who worked with a German shepherd named Shield.
Lehner also was a member of the National Guard and served in Iraq.
More than 6,000 people attended Lehner's funeral, held on Nov. 23 in Buffalo's KeyBank Center.