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Buffalo’s Finest: Brutality and Buffoonery in Buffalo Policing

Written by Mike Rickard II

The Buffalo Police’Department’s apparent attempted cover-up of one of Buffalo’s Finest shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground and reporting he was tripped (that is, until a video report clearly showed otherwise) is just the latest example of the brutality, buffoonery, and bumbling by the B.P.D. Anyone who has lived in Buffalo knows of the Buffalo Police Department’s well-earned reputation for incompetence and heavy-handedness, but for those who don’t, here are some of the department’s greatest hits (literally).

There seems to be a culture of brutality engrained in the Buffalo Police Department. Consider this case as reported by the Buffalo News in 2014:

On May 11, 2014, while serving as manager of Molly’s Pub on Main Street in University Heights, {Jeffrey J. } Basil shoved Sager over a staircase in what was described as an unprovoked assault inside the bar. The Air National Guardsman plummeted to the bottom of the steps and suffered a catastrophic brain injury. Sager, 28, died July 31.

Getting off lightly when Buffalo’s boys in blue get angry.

As bad as that was, the case became even more serious when it was discovered that two off-duty Buffalo police officers were working security (which was prohibited by New York State law). Let’s see what the Western District of New York U.S. Attorney’s Office had to say on the case regarding the boobs in blue. Robert J. Eloff (one of the off-duty officers) was  “convicted of deprivation of rights under color of law” and according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

At the time Sager was pushed by Basil, Eloff was in Molly’s Pub working security for the bar.  Eloff had been employed as a Buffalo Police Officer since 2007.  While employed at Molly’s Pub, Eloff wore clothing and articles of equipment which identified him as an off-duty police officer.

A victim identified as D.H. was with William Sager the night Sager was pushed down the stairs. D.H saw people carry Sager outside after he was pushed down the stairs, and upon leaving the bar, saw Sager propped up against a wall. When D.H. asked BPD officers what happened, Eloff grabbed D.H. and told him to get out of there. D.H. then walked away and called 911. When other officers arrived, D.H. asked for Eloff’s name and badge number.  Eloff, in response arrested and handcuffed D.H. and seated him next to Sager. D.H. was later taken from the scene by other officers.

Eloff told BPD officers that D.H. had physically interfered with Eloff and others inside the bar and had refused to leave the bar when directed to do so. A later review of surveillance video from Molly’s Pub revealed that D.H. never interfered with Eloff in the bar and never refused a command to leave the bar. In essence, Eloff caused D.H. to be falsely arrested for trespassing, a crime D.H. never committed.

The truth and the Buffalo Police are usually strangers. Brutality and misconduct on the other hand…

Killer Cops This article could be turned into a book, but let’s just say the above case is just the tip of the iceberg. I remember when I was a kid that the Buffalo Police managed to find themselves in a national scandal for beating someone to death. The Richard Long murder case

As detailed in an article at Spree Magazine:

Richard Long, an 18 year old from North Buffalo planning his first semester at Buffalo State College, was dragged from his brother’s car at 2:30 a.m. on June 25, 1977, beaten and stomped to death by two police officers (Philip Gramaglia and Gary Atti) and a Buffalo businessman (Jack Giammaresi). The three were charged with first degree manslaughter.

The beating was precipitated by a traffic incident, in which Long, driving home after a party, cut off Gramaglia and Atti (who had also been celebrating). The two policemen bragged to their friends about the beating afterwards, over drinks at Mulligans. They never attempted to deny their actions, as this chilling testimony from the trial transcript demonstrates:

“Q. He went down?
A [Gramaglia]. Yes, sir.
Q. What did you do?
A. When he was down, or when he was going down, or just about all the way down, I kicked him.

A [Atti]: …Phil reached down and grabbed him by his shirt and tried to pull, lift him up, and the kid says ‘No,’ so then I started to holler ‘Get up, get up,’ and he wouldn’t get up, and I gave him a quick kick to what I believe is the top of the head.
Q. Then what happened?
A. Well, I believe we were still hollering to get up, and I kicked him again.”
(from Buffalo News, June 25, 1987)

The public wasn’t surprised that other officers may have been involved. It’s unlikely anyone familiar with the broken checks and balances system in law enforcement was surprised that guilty parties probably walked away free. Spree noted:

Long drowned in his own blood. Most of the testimony in the trial revolved around whether other officers had been involved, and, although many people still believe there were more, in the end only Gramaglia, Atti, and Giammaresi were convicted. After a relatively painless 18 month stretch in a minimum security facility, the three resumed their lives in Buffalo. This relatively mild verdict was condemned by many.

Not all cases involve police brutality. While I normally have little use for the local newspaper The Buffalo News, this article contains a number of anecdotes concerning Buffalo’s buffoons in blue:

 a rookie Buffalo officer was charged with cultivating marijuana plants in his basement. But James Hamilton, who posted a Facebook photo of himself wearing shades and a “Party All Day” T-shirt, wasn’t the first Buffalo cop found growing pot plants. Jorge Melendez would regularly check on his marijuana-growing operation – while in uniform and out of his territory – drug investigators discovered in May 2012.

[Anthony} Porzio is featured in a video, now on YouTube, swinging his forearm into the face of a handcuffed and passive drug suspect in 2010.

Gregg O’Shei …spared at least two women from arrest if they agreed to have sex with him. He resigned and pleaded guilty to charges.

Patrick O’Mara took tens of thousands of dollars in pay he didn’t deserve as he milked the on-duty injury he suffered carrying two reams of copy paper. O’Mara, who pleaded guilty in federal court, had refused to work even desk duty. But the FBI learned he was fit enough to serve as a church organist, lift a home air conditioner and visit the state fair.

So when a 75-year-old man gets sent flying by a Buffalo cop and the police report states he tripped, just add this to the mountain of misconduct that is the Buffalo Police Department.

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About the author

Mike Rickard II

Retired bank robber and author of "Wrestling's Greatest Moments", "Laughing All the Way to the Bank Robbery, "Flunky: Pawns and Kings," and "Don't Call Me Bush Beans: The Legend of a Three-Legged Cat." Pro wrestling and hockey fan. Hired gun for several pro wrestling sites and a top 10 YouTube wrestling channel. Available in regular and extra-strength.