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DA calls video showing deputy's violent arrest of Bills fan 'troubling'

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn offered one word about the body-worn camera video showing part of a bloody encounter between a Bills fan and a sheriff's deputy.

"Troubling."

Flynn said his office's investigation continues into what happened that December 2017 day at a tailgate party outside New Era Field when a then-25-year-old University at Buffalo student wound up with a broken nose and bloody face.

The district attorney said his investigators are looking into the possibility there may be more video of the incident involving Sheriff's Deputy Kenneth P. Achtyl than what was captured on another deputy's camera.

"I don't want to go past the word 'troubling' because I want to see, like I said, see what other video's out there," he said. "I want to get a complete picture of what happened here before I go beyond the word 'troubling.' "

Flynn, at a Buffalo News Editorial Board meeting Friday, said prosecutors are looking into allegations that Achtyl assaulted Nicholas H. Belsito, as well as whether Achtyl and Deputy James W. Flowers made false statements in court documents involving Belsito's arrest.

"Everything is being investigated," the DA said.

Body-camera video turns against deputies after bloody arrest at Bills game

Flynn said some of the yet-to-be-recovered video might come from UB students, who have been out on break.

Deputies charged Belsito with disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and obstruction of governmental administration on Dec. 3, 2017, after they said the UB student engaged in "violent, tumultuous and threatening behavior" outside New Era Field. They said he fought with them after his friend was taken into custody.

Some of the episode was captured on Flowers' body camera, which depicted a different view than the account the deputies swore to in court documents. The case against Belsito was eventually dismissed and Belsito's attorney is preparing a wrongful arrest lawsuit.

Federal authorities also have been looking into whether the deputies exceeded their powers and should face charges, a source with direct knowledge of their probe previously told The News.

In addition to the encounter with Belsito, an Amherst woman went public last month about a 2014 encounter with Achtyl in which she said she was humiliated by Achtyl and charged with a crime after disrespecting him.

With the Buffalo Police Department preparing to equip its force with body cameras, Flynn said he is a proponent of local police implementing the technology.

"I think that it will be beneficial, not only for officer safety but for civilian safety," he said.

He said he has not discussed body cameras with Sheriff Timothy B. Howard. Last month, Howard told county lawmakers he supports equipping deputies with the devices but doesn't consider it to be a top priority.

In terms of when footage captured by police body cams can be viewed by the public, the DA said he would not want recordings released while a matter is under investigation. Such release could influence potential jurors and may jeopardize possible leads, he said.

"It's going to depend on the progression of the case," he said.

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