Did police officers from Buffalo, New York illegally help bounty hunters search someone’s home for a fugitive? That could be the case based on some recently released bodycam footage showing police apparently providing security for bounty hunters looking for the home owner’s brother, who had jumped bail in Pennsylvania. Not only that but initial statements from Buffalo police are making the usual bullshit from “Buffalo’s Finest” smell like roses by comparison. The cops in question aren’t getting a pass though as the homeowner and his tenants are taking legal action. An exclusive story by WIVB-TV reporter Daniel Telvock notes the incident is the “subject of a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Buffalo, a Pennsylvania bail company, two unknown bounty hunters and unnamed city officers.“
According to Telvock’s report:
Jake Reinhardt, the owner of the duplex on Oakdale Place off Seneca Street, constantly asked the police officers and bounty hunters for a search warrant.
At least one officer and bounty hunter told Reinhardt that a search warrant existed, but one was never presented to him. Reinhardt also pleaded with one of the bounty hunters to drop his gun because his fiancé and 3-year-old child were awake and inside, but he refused.
With long guns drawn, the bounty hunters barreled through the front door and into Reinhardt’s first-floor home as he continued to demand that they show him a search warrant.
Reinhart’s attorney claims that the police did more than provide security for the bounty hunters; they provided assistance in making a warrantless search. The WIVB TV report noted that Reinhart’s attorney is arguing “the bodycam footage “clearly” shows two different officers crossing a Fourth Amendment threshold by entering hallways connected to the front and back doors and flashing their flashlights inside.”
Buffalo TV news station WKBW-TV spoke with an Arizona bounty hunter about the situation:
A Bounty Hunter from Arizona, who has been in the business for more than 15 years says he was “embarrassed” to watch the way out of state bounty hunters conducted business here in Buffalo during a January midnight raid. “It was completely embarrassing to watch.” …“We are not police,” he said. “We can’t just go pointing firearms at anyone. They’re not involved. They’re not the defendant. They had their rifles without a sling. If the situation would have gone bad, they would have had no choice but to use their rifles,”
According to the New York Department of State:
“Prior to taking or attempting to take into custody a person, a bail enforcement agent shall notify a local law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the area in which the person is believed to be located of such bail enforcement agent’s intentions. The notification shall be provided on a form prescribed by the local law enforcement agency. Notwithstanding, the form shall include information including but not limited to name, address, local address and motor vehicle registration of said agent. The local law enforcement agency in prescribing such form may consult with the division of criminal justice services. A representative of a local law enforcement agency may accompany a bail enforcement agent when the bail enforcement agent enters what is believed to be an occupied structure to search for or to apprehend a person.”
Generally, when a person obtains bail from a bail bonds person, they sign a slip authorizing bounty hunters to enter their home if they skip out on bail/bond (which occurs when a person does not show up for court, leading to the bond agency potentially losing the money they fronted for the fugitive). Whether or not the bounty hunters were authorized to enter Reinhart’s home is a matter of New York state law and one which hopefully will be answered in court.
There are two sides to every story and as a former attorney and former inmate (check out my prison memoir Laughing All the Way to the Bank (Robbery): How an Attorney Survived Prison for more details), I know that attorneys routinely manipulate the press to hype their case whether it’s prosecutors, defense attorneys, or civil attorneys. However, the Buffalo Police Department’s initial response to this case and their slow AF response in turning over the body cam evidence (thankfully the homeowner had surveillance cameras on his property that caught some of the incident) makes the department look as transparent as mud. Consider this information from the WIVB report:
Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen asked the city attorney’s office to provide council members with the police department’s policies and procedures that govern how officers should interact with bounty hunters.
However, News 4 Investigates learned in February that the city does not have any such policies, despite the 1998 death of a city police officer who was struck by a vehicle while assisting bounty hunters nab a suspect.
I’ve written about the City of Buffalo’s piss-poor record in past columns and this seems to be the latest case of Buffalo police higher-ups being clueless, intentionally ignorant, or perhaps giving zero fucks about their officers playing Dog the Bounty Hunter. The WIVB story indicates:
In January, before the lawsuit was filed, Buffalo Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo told News 4 that although he had not seen the body cam footage or spoken with any of the officers involved, a detective told him that none of the officers entered the house or conducted any kind of search.
“They stepped into the front of the hallway there, but my understanding is that they never went into the upstairs or downstairs apartments,” Rinaldo said at the time.
This isn’t the first time bounty hunters have raided the wrong home. A few years back, Inside Edition covered the story of some bounty hunter boobs who raided a local police chief’s home.
Sadly, most people don’t know what to do when such a situation arises, especially when law-enforcement is present and as helpful as the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive line was at the 2021 Super Bowl. When a local police agency seems to be acting up, a citizen might want to consider calling their state police but even this is no guarantee that things will turn out well. What do you think of this incident? Let us know in the comments and at Pro Sports Extra’s social media.