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'Calamitous confluence of events' led to police killing fleeing suspect

The New York State Attorney General's Office's report on the death of an unarmed man, Jose Hernandez-Rossy, who was shot by Buffalo police last May, gave this account of the events that led to the shooting, based on interviews with Police Officers Justin Tedesco and Joseph Acquino, eyewitnesses, reviews of videos shot by witnesses, 911 calls and forensic evidence from the scene:

The stop

Tedesco and Acquino were in a patrol car at around 5:10 p.m. May 7, when they noticed smoke and the smell of marijuana coming from the a white Acura SUV in front of them on East Street. They followed the SUV and activated their lights and siren. Instead of pulling over, the driver turned right onto Garfield Street.

Tedesco, who was driving, told investigators he didn't believe the SUV would stop so he passed it and stopped in front of it at an angle.

Both officers said they approached the driver's side of the vehicle.

Acquino asked the driver, Hernandez-Rossy: "What the (expletive) are you doing?"

Acquino told investigators Hernandez-Rossy handed him a lighted marijuana blunt.

Hernandez-Rossy "was not verbally responsive and looked at him 'dead-eyed,' " Acquino said.

Then, Acquino told investigators, Hernandez-Rossy reached for his right jacket pocket and Acquino said he opened the driver's side door and demanded again: "What the (expletive) are you doing?" Acquino said he jumped into the car to reach for Hernandez-Rossy's hand and said he felt something "small and hard" in Hernandez-Rossy's pocket which he thought was a gun. "Gun! Gun!" he said he yelled.

Acquino told investigators he never saw a gun. The officers both described Hernandez-Rossy pulling Acquino further into the car. Hernandez- Rossy tried to close the door and hit the gas pedal.

Acquino said they were about to hit a boy on a bicycle and he grabbed the steering wheel. The SUV hit the police car and a stop sign before hitting a house.

Acquino said he heard "the loudest of fireworks" going off in his right ear and he "felt an extreme burning sensation." He got out of the car bleeding heavily with his ear hanging by the lobe.

Acquino believed Hernandez Rossy had just shot him and began yelling to Tedesco, “Justin I’m shot” and “Help me!”

Witnesses told the investigators they saw Acquino bleeding and screaming, "Oh My God. Help me. Shoot him."

In fact, he had not been shot. The AG's investigation found no evidence that Hernandez-Rossy was armed. There was no gun residue inside the vehicle. A search of the area also failed to turn up a weapon.

"Rather the evidence indicates that PO Acquino's injury was suffered in connection with the vehicle crash and airbag deployment," the report said.

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The shooting

Tedesco told investigators that when he saw his partner bleeding and screaming that he had been shot, he pulled out his weapon and told Hernandez-Rossy, "Stop, get the (expletive) on the ground or I'll shoot you."

Hernandez-Rossy began fighting with Tedesco. Tedesco said he hit Hernandez-Rossy on the side of the head with his gun. As Hernandez-Rossy began running north on Garfield, Tedesco said he got down on one knee, yelled "Stop" and fired three shots.

Hernandez-Rossy was struck in back of the left arm but he continued to run two blocks before collapsing.

"Please don't call the cops," Hernandez-Rossy told a woman who came out of the house, the AG's report said.

When police officers found him, Hernandez-Rossy was breathing. Officer Richard Hy rolled Hernandez-Rossy on his side and tightened a tourniquet around the arm.

About 30 seconds later, Buffalo firefighters arrived, asked for Hernandez-Rossy to be uncuffed. He was rolled over and showed signs he was losing consciousness.

By the time an ambulance arrived Hernandez-Rossy had no pulse and was in cardiac arrest. He was taken to Kenmore Mercy Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

One witness who spoke to the AG's office, described as an acquaintance of Hernandez-Rossy, said he heard Hernandez-Rossy tell the officers "Get off me ... Leave me alone" during the struggle with Tedesco and the witness said he yelled to the officers not to shoot Hernandez-Rossy because he didn't have a gun. The AG's office noted that "no other witnesses recalls anyone yelling that Hernandez-Rossy didn't have a gun."

Narcotics

A Buffalo police officer who rushed to the scene said Acquino handed him a bag full of drugs, including 42 envelopes of heroin laced with fentanyl, 68 bags of cocaine, 14 Xanax tablets, six oxycodone tablets and a bag of marijuana. DNA from both Acquino and Hernandez-Rossy was found on the outside of the bag, the report said.

"The fact that Mr. Hernandez-Rossy was carrying narcotics – in and of itself – is irrelevant to the determination of whether the shooting was justified," the AG's office said. But it said the bag of drugs was likely what Hernandez-Rossy was reaching for in his pocket and could be what Acquino mistook for a gun.

The autopsy also found the presence of Xanax, oxycodone and marijuana in Hernandez-Rossy's system.

Document: AG report on police-involved fatal shooting of Jose Hernandez-Rossy

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