A second Erie County Sheriff's Office body camera video has surfaced, shedding more light on the controversial arrest of a Buffalo Bills fan in December 2017.
The new video does not show Deputy Kenneth P. Achtyl clutching his police baton, forcing the fan who swore at him to the ground and cuffing him, as the first video did.
Instead, it captures Achtyl's co-workers chatting about him outside New Era Field, where one laments that Achtyl "always pushes people."
The comments suggest Achtyl has a reputation for being physical.
The state and federal prosecutors deciding whether Achtyl should be charged for the arrest of Nicholas H. Belsito will not say how the second body camera video might play into their inquiries. But a lawyer filing a wrongful arrest lawsuit against Erie County predicts it will figure into his case.
"Their comments speak for themselves," attorney Aaron F. Glazer of Buffalo said of the deputies' remarks.
Achtyl has distinguished himself in better ways. Just weeks ago, the mayor of Springville presented him and other deputies with a proclamation for risking their lives one August evening by confronting a man waving a sawed-off shotgun outside a convenience store. One deputy shot the gunman, but he survived. Further, Achtyl has arrested many drunken drivers over the years and once strode into some woods to find a driver who had taken out a series of mailboxes.
But Achtyl's arrest of a bloodied Belsito stoked public outrage soon after The Buffalo News made the first body camera video public Dec. 2. So did Achtyl's jailing of a suburban mother after an outing with her children, an arrest The News detailed Dec. 23. Julie Marinaro, a passenger in a car, needed to walk to a nearby restroom during a 40-minute traffic stop in 2014. Achtyl insisted she stay seated. She ended up handcuffed in a patrol car, her pants soiled.
Now, comments by fellow deputies in the minutes before Belsito's arrest suggest Achtyl is known for using force. The News is not posting the video, which is laced with cursing and coarse language, because it shows a deputy who works undercover.
Here's the background: It's about 12:20 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2017. Thousands of fans are tailgating before the Bills will play the New England Patriots. Personnel from several police agencies, including the Erie County Sheriff's Office, keep watch.
In one corner of the lot, a Bills fan tosses a beer can into a group of people, and it hits Achtyl's elbow. The fan disappears into a crowd but is soon grabbed by an undercover deputy. Achtyl and others move in to arrest him.
"Uh-oh," says Deputy Bradford Ballantyne, who is standing a long distance away. Ballantyne has just heard word of the commotion. He wears a body camera that records the idle conversation between him and a few other deputies.
"Way over on the other side of things, Kenny was just pushing somebody," says Ballantyne, looking into the distance.
"Where?" asks Deputy Adam Day.
"Way down there," Ballantyne says, pointing to a place impossible to discern on the video.
"Kenny always pushes people," Day remarks, walking off.
Soon after, Ballantyne talks to the undercover deputy who helped with the arrest. The undercover cop tells how he followed the can-thrower into the crowd. Once he was found, the scene grew tense.
"His friends (expletive) surrounded me," the undercover deputy says. "And I'm like, 'I don't care.' "
"And then Kenny turned into Kenny – and everybody went 'whoosh.' " He gestures with his hands to show the crowd scattered.
Deputy Day seems to know what "Kenny turned into Kenny" means.
"He starts pushing everybody," Day suggests, swinging his arms.
"No, the (expletive) night stick comes out," the undercover deputy explains.
"Nice," says Ballantyne.
With the alleged can-thrower in the back seat of a patrol car, Belsito approached to ask the deputies sitting in the front seat, Achtyl and Deputy James Flowers, where they will take his friend. Belsito, who is 25 at the time and in his first year at the University at Buffalo, figured he would go retrieve the friend once he is released from custody.
"I'm sorry," Belsito begins as Achtyl lowers the passenger window, "I'm just wondering where you guys are going, so I'm going to meet my friend there ..."
"Who's your friend?" Achtyl asks.
"The kid in the back.''
"OK, well, you want to go to jail with him?" Achtyl says, his voice rising.
"No, I ..."
"Then beat it."
Achtyl told Belsito three more times to "beat it" as he tried to learn where his friend was going. But Achtyl eventually told Belsito that the county jail was at 10 Delaware Ave.
A visibly frustrated Belsito walked off, then turned to curse. He used words to the effect of: "Do your (expletive) job. This is bull---," his lawyer said.
Achtyl burst from his seat to write Belsito a ticket for disorderly conduct, even though New York's highest court has held that swearing at a police officer is not illegal.
Most of the arrest was recorded on a camera Flowers wore as part of the body camera trial, involving select deputies. Sheriff Timothy B. Howard announced the test period just weeks before Election Day in 2017. The Flowers video showed the power of body cameras to prove guilt or innocence.
Though Achtyl and Flowers said in court documents that Belsito swung his arms at them, the video doesn't show that, nor does a series of cellphone images taken by another tailgate reveler. The images show Achtyl hitting Belsito with the baton and Belsito doing little to defend himself, though at one point Belsito raises an arm to push the baton from his neck.
After county prosecutors watched the Flowers video, they dropped the charges against Belsito. Howard has since told the Erie County Legislature that giving a body camera to each road deputy is not one of his priorities.
With video of the arrest circulating on social media, a spokeswoman for District Attorney John J. Flynn said his staff was looking into whether Achtyl and Flowers should be charged for stating in court documents that Belsito resisted arrest by swinging his arms. Flynn recently called the video "troubling" and said his prosecutors are hoping to obtain more video that onlookers recorded.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors are looking into the Belsito arrest as well.
Outside New Era Field, Deputy Ballantyne eventually walked to the scene. But by the time he arrived, Belsito was on the ground in handcuffs. Achtyl appeared out of breath, and Bills fans were peppering the crew of deputies with insults for being heavy-handed. Belsito's blood covered half his face.
Ballantyne calls for first aid and asks that deputies on horseback come to control the crowd.
He shows an officer from another agency all the blood Belsito left on the squad car.
"Holy (expletive)," the cop exclaims.
Says Ballantyne: "The guy's bleeding like a stuck pig."