On the eve of his federal court trial, Gregory Kwiatkowski dropped a bombshell.
The retired Buffalo police lieutenant pleaded guilty, admitted roughing up four teenagers and, perhaps most important, agreed to testify against two other officers.
On Thursday, more than a year later, Kwiatkowski took the witness stand in the civil rights prosecution of Detective Raymond Krug and Officer Joseph Wendel.
In his first day of testimony, he admitted his role in assaulting the teens and handling the BB gun Krug is accused of using to shoot one of them.
"I took it personally and lost control of myself," Kwiatkowski said, adding that the teens had been suspected of shooting up cars and houses, including those of cops, with the BB gun. He said he became "upset, probably enraged."
He said he grabbed on of the teens by the neck and slammed him head-first into a car and then slammed the others into the police car after they got belligerent over his treatment of their friend.
When they arrived at the station house, Kwiatkowski said, one of the handcuffed teens was scuffling with Krug.
"I punched him in the back and again in the side," Kwiatkowski said, adding that Krug also punched the teen.
Asked if he filled out a "use of force" form, Kwiatkowski said he did not and neither did Krug or Wendel.
"At the time, the Buffalo Police Department was under Department of Justice oversight. I would only fill one out if it was a major use of force," he said, adding that he thought Krug and Wendel were also aware of the federal oversight.
He acknowledged that, in a radio dispatch, he referred to the teens as "four jackasses."
"I thought it was little more polite" than the expletive he wanted to use, he explained.
Kwiatkowski said he saw the BB gun on the passenger side floor of the teens' car and could not remember if he or a Cheektowaga officer at the scene picked it up. He also said he could not recall whether he gave it to Krug or Wendel, but he said he never saw it again after that.
Under cross examination by defense attorney Terrence M. Connors, Kwiatkowski admitted that he had lied several times in the past about using excessive force, including under oath in both a civil trial and an Internal Affairs investigation.
Kwiatkowski will resume his testimony Friday.
From the day he took his plea deal, Kwiatkowski became a much anticipated witness in the case that accuses Krug and Wendel of using excessive force against four teenagers in late May of 2009.
Kwiatkowski, who retired two years later, was the first Buffalo officer on the scene on Treehaven Road that night.
"He admits using unlawful, unreasonable, excessive force," Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango said of Kwiatkowski at the time of his guilty plea.
Mango, who is prosecuting the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney John D. Fabian, said Kwiatkowski decided to plead guilty when it became evident Krug and Wendel might try to point the finger at him. Kwiatkowski acknowledged that on Thursday.
Indicted by a grand jury in 2014, Krug stands accused of shooting one of the four teens, Donald J. Silmon, with the BB gun while the young man sat handcuffed in the car. Wendel is charged with encouraging Krug to shoot Silmon a second time and later punching Silmon twice in the stomach.
Krug and Wendel are currently suspended with pay.
The criminal prosecution of the three officers began after two of the teens sued the city in 2010. Court records indicate Silmon received a $65,000 settlement while another teen, Jeffrey E. Campbell II, received $10,000.
Arrested in what police called a drive-by BB gun shooting, the teenagers were accused of firing into a crowd at Main and Custer streets and striking at least one person with BBs.
The four teens, all residents of University Heights, were charged with felony assault, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon and eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of harassment. They were each sentenced to a conditional discharge and community service.
The other boys involved in the incident, Davaughan Dantzler and Justin Ward, did not sue the city. Now in their 20s, all four testified against Krug and Wendel in the trial before U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny.
During his time on the stand, Kwiatkowski is likely to face face questions about his disciplinary record as an officer.
His record includes a 2008 incident involving a fellow officer, Cariol Horne, and the allegation that she was fired from the job for jumping on Kwiatkowski’s back while he was trying to make an arrest. Horne claimed Kwiatkowski was choking the person.
For his role in the BB gun incident, Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of deprivation of rights under color of law during a December 2016 appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy.
His conviction was the result of an investigation by the FBI and Buffalo police.