A Buffalo police officer shot and wounded a 47-year-old shoplifting suspect late Tueaday night. That suspect died Wednesday after being transported to ECMC.
The suspect has been identified as 47-year-old Marcus Neal. He was apparently shot three times by 25-year-old Buffalo Police officer Joseph Meli, who has been placed on administrative leave.
After exiting Wegmans on Amherst Street, investigators say the suspect ran through a Black Rock neighborhood and climbed onto a roof on Gladstone Street. He began cutting himself in a suicidal manor and making threats. Officers tried de-escalating the situation, but the suspect soon after lunged at the officers with a knife according to Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo. The suspect was then shot multiple times.
“While they were chasing him, the suspect was dropping various items that he had stolen form he store. It doesn’t matter what the predicate offense is," said Rinaldo. "Once you pull a weapon and begin to threaten the officers… you know the officers had no room to attempt to retreat. They did an excellent job trying to de-escalate this. Verbal commands, pepper spray, it had no effect."
Jeff Rinaldo said they have a number of officers that have been trained in crisis intervention training. He said the issue here is this situation unfolded in just seconds.
“You unfortunately do not have the time to attempt a lot of those tactics when the suspect who is armed with a weapon, is not complying with you," Rinadlo said. "The less lethal options that were deployed did not work on him. And now he’s charging at you with a weapon. Unfortunately, in that situation you have to defend yourself and your fellow officers.”
Buffalo State Criminal Justice Professor Scott Phillips said it can be difficult for officers to determine when to use deadly force. He says an officer’s experience can play a big role.
"The situations are dynamic, the change, they are emotional as well," said Phillips. "Especially if the person with the weapon is intoxicated. It’s an emotional event from the start when they are there. Then all of a sudden the police show up and that might calm the situation. Then again it might not."
This is the third shooting the Buffalo police have been involved with since July. Rafael Rivera was shot and killed by a Buffalo police officer on the city's West Side in September and in July, an officer opened fire during a hostage situation in South Buffalo.
Phillips said there are times where you might move from one de-escalation approach to another, but in the end they won’t work.
The investigation is ongoing. There is a process of canvassing four witnesses as well as video evidence.