Buffalo, NY – The Erie County District Attorney’s Office has determined two Buffalo police officers were justified in using deadly force against a suspect who attacked them with a knife last week.
District Attorney John Flynn announced on Tuesday afternoon that bodycam footage showed Buffalo Police Department (BPD) Officer Phillip Edwards and Officer Michael Ramos acted appropriately when they discharged their weapons during the March 14 attack, WIBV reported.
“It is, quite frankly, crystal clear that both officers had justification for discharging their weapons,” Flynn told reporters.
The suspect, 30-year-old Dominique Thomas, has been charged with two counts of felony menacing a police officer, the district attorney added.
Thomas remained hospitalized at Erie County Medical Center, where he was arraigned on Tuesday, WIVB reported.
The incident began at approximately 4:30 a.m. on March 14, when police were called to the 1900-block of Hertel Avenue for a report that a man armed with a knife was threatening to kill someone, according to WGRZ.
Bodycam footage showed Officer Edwards and Officer Ramos as they encountered Thomas in a building stairwell.
The officers asked Thomas if he was okay, to which he responded, “No, I am not.”
“What happened?” one officer asked. “How can we make you okay?”
Officer Edwards could be heard quietly warning his fellow officers that Thomas had “a knife in his pocket,” bodycam footage showed.
The suspect took the weapon from his pocket just before the officers calmly told him to put it down multiple times.
Thomas refused and could be seen in the video gripping the knife in his hand at the top of the staircase.
The officers asked the suspect to step outside and walked out of the building ahead of him, bodycam footage showed.
Thomas followed a moment later but was still holding the knife.
Police continued to calmly order him to put the weapon down.
“We can help you with whatever you’re going through,” one officer told him. “It ain’t even no big deal…All you gotta do is put it down and let us help you.”
Thomas briefly charged at the officers as they backed away and drew their weapons, continuously trying to get him to put down the weapon and speak with them, the video showed.
The suspect walked slowly towards the street, then abruptly broke into a run and charged out into the roadway were the officers were located.
Officer Edwards and Officer Ramos both opened fire, hitting Thomas six times in his upper shoulder, jaw, leg, hand, and foot, WIBV reported.
Bodycam footage showed the distraught officers as they secured the scene and rendered aid to the suspect in the wake of the shooting.
Thomas was transported to the hospital and was continuing to recover from his wounds on Tuesday.
“He appears to be doing better, but he’s still in the hospital,” Flynn told WIBV.
Investigators said that the officers were not carrying Tasers at the time of the encounter.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the BPD began providing its officers with Taser training just two weeks ago, but none of the 170 officers who have completed the 10-hour training were involved in the incident, WGRZ reported.
“We’re rapidly pushing that training out and all five districts have Tasers and as soon as the officers are trained, they will be carrying the Tasers,” Gramaglia said. “Do I wish the officers had a Taser or a BolaWrap? Yes, but I don’t think the tactics used would have been different.”
The Buffalo Behavior Health Team was also not on duty at the time of the incident.
Police said they have dealt with Thomas regarding mental health issues in the past, WIBV reported.
Flynn said that at least one of the officers asked him not to file criminal charges against the suspect.
“They obviously recognized he was under a mental health crisis. And they were like, ‘hey, why charge the guy? He obviously needs help.’ And I agree with that,” Flynn told reporters. “But I have to charge him. Just because, he committed a crime, and I need to get him a forensic (evaluation); I need to get him in the system … and then I can decide what to do with him going forward.”
Both officers who discharged their weapons have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, as per protocol, WBFO reported.
Officer Ramos is a two-year veteran of the BPD and Officer Edwards has been with the department for seven years.