Buffalo police say Marcus Neal was wielding a knife and charging at officers when he was shot three times and killed during a rooftop confrontation in Black Rock last year.
Neal's family tells a far different story.
They say there's no evidence of the 47-year-old man being armed or threatening police. They also claim Joseph Meli, the officer who shot Neal, acted without provocation that night in December.
The allegations are part of a notice of claim filed this week indicating Neal's family intends to sue the city and seek monetary damages.
The family's intention to file a civil lawsuit came as Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announced Thursday that an investigation has concluded that Meli was justified in shooting Neal and will not be prosecuted.
The family's notice of claim is the latest chapter in a story that began in mid-December with a police report of a shoplifter at Wegmans on Amherst Street.
A few minutes later, police said, a man matching the description provided by store security was seen walking down Grote Street, and police gave chase when the man fled.
The pursuit ended about 20 minutes later on the rooftop of a home on Gladstone Street, near Military Road and Hertel Avenue.
Police said they gave Neal verbal commands to stop and get on the ground, but he ignored them and instead took out a knife and began cutting himself.
When he again ignored their warnings to stop, officers said they pepper-sprayed Neal. At that point, they said, he charged at them and Meli responded by shooting him twice in the abdomen and once in the leg.
Audio recordings of police radio transmissions from that night include officers reporting the presence of a knife and Neal charging at officers, the knife in hand.
In the notice of claim, Neal's family disputes the Police Department's account of what happened at Wegmans and later on Gladstone.
Police have yet to provide evidence that the officers, at the time they located Neal and gave chase, had probable cause to believe he was the shoplifter at Wegmans, according to the family.
They also claim there is no evidence – no photos or documentation – of Neal carrying a weapon or making threatening comments to police that night.
The notice of claim also refers to toxicology reports that indicated there were no signs of drugs in Neal's body and an autopsy that found blunt force injuries to his head and torso.
Neal, a Niagara Falls native, left the area in his 20s and spent time in Virginia caring for his mother and later in Florida, where his father lives. He ran afoul of the law more than once, including convictions for burglary and resisting arrest in Virginia.
His family said he returned here in September of last year to settle an old traffic ticket and ultimately get his driver's license back. He was living on Tonawanda Street, not far from where he was shot and killed.