Thousands of police officers and members of the general public are expected to attend Buffalo Police Officer Craig Lehner's funeral Wednesday inside KeyBank Center. Police officials on Monday advised the public of several road closures that will be necessary to accommodate funeral traffic, including the procession to Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Officer Lehner's visiting hours are being held from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. inside the Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home, 4199 Lakeshore Road, in Hamburg. His funeral is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Police Lieutenant Jeff Rinaldo urged the public to be aware of road closures around KeyBank Center that will begin as early as 6 a.m. Nearby streets will also be closed so that the vehicles of the thousands of mourning officers expected to attend may be parked.
"Ohio Street from Ganson to Michigan will be used as a staging area and for parking of hundreds of vehicles that are anticipated," Rinaldo said. "The procession will lead towards the center from Michigan Avenue, Perry and utilize Main, Scott and Washington Streets. Perry, Scott, Washington and Main will also be closed. As well, Erie Avenue into the Erie Basin Marina will be closed and used for parking of official police vehicles only."
Thousands of police and officers are expected to line up along Perry outside KeyBank Center. Thousands more will be inside.
"We're getting calls from agencies outside of New York State, all the way from California and Florida," Rinaldo said. "We're getting calls from Canadian law enforcement, rescue teams. Our anticipation is anywhere between five and ten thousand, possibly more, in attendance."
Following the ceremony inside KeyBank Center, a lengthy procession will travel through downtown Buffalo as it journeys to Forest Lawn Cemetery, where Lehner will be buried.
"After the services, the procession will lead away from KeyBank Center to Michigan Avenue, north to Scott Street, westbound it crosses Main to Upper Terrace, veering west to Franklin Street," Rinaldo said. "The procession will pass Buffalo Police Headquarters at 74 Franklin and continue northbound on Franklin. It will then continue to Niagara Street passing by the former Dillon Courthouse, home of the new Buffalo Police Headquarters. It will enter Niagara Square."
From there, the procession will leave Niagara Square and enter Delaware Avenue and remain on that street until it reaches Forest Lawn Cemetery. The public will be able to view the procession along that route, but there will be additional road closings mid-morning and early afternoon to accommodate the funeral vehicles.
"Expect intermittent closures of Delaware Avenue as well as a complete closure during the procession," Rinaldo continued. "That procession's expected to start some time around 11:00, 11:30 in the morning, and could lead well into the early afternoon Wednesday."
Additionally, West Delavan Avenue will be closed between Delaware and Main Street, and Main Street between West Delavan and Canisius College, to allow for funeral-related parking.
Lehner disappeared in the Niagara River during an Underwater Rescue Team training exercise on October 13. Following an intensive search that involved numerous agencies from New York State and Southern Ontario, his body was located and recovered on October 17.
Lehner, a nine-year veteran of the Buffalo Police Department, was also a member of its K-9 Unit. His surviving dog partner, Shield, will march behind his casket during the funeral procession.
"Shield is getting an outpour of support from the public as well," Rinaldo said. "The process of figuring out where and how he will transition to another handler hasn't started yet but will be shortly."
Rinaldo again thanked the public for its support of the police department and Lehner's family, acknowledging the display of blue lights and the proceeds raised by the distribution of blue-painted pumpkins. He noted that 400 blue lights have been donated to the police department for distribution to officers and others close to Lehner.