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Buffalo cop who worked at Molly's Pub arrested on civil rights charges

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

Buffalo police officer Robert Eloff Jr. has been arrested and charged with three counts of civil rights violations. Eloff was one of the off-duty officers present at Molly's Pub last May on the night airman William Sager Jr. was pushed down a flight of stairs, leading to a fatal head injury.

Federal prosecutors have charged Eloff in connection with two separate incidents at that bar. In the first, Eloff is alleged to have punched and kicked a patron who was kicked out for using a fake ID. A witness says the victim was screaming "stop" at the time. 

The second incident occurred the night of Sager's death. A victim who was with Sager at the time allegedly questioned Eloff on what was happening. Prosecutors say Eloff then told fellow officers the man had physically interfered with him, leading to the man's unlawful arrest. 

"Eloff engaged in this arrest of the victim at the Molly's Pub second incident under the direction of Jeffrey Basil, the man that had just committed the murder," said U.S. Attorney William Hochul.

"That therefore becomes a conspiracy to violate the civil rights of the victim who was wrongfully arrested."

Eloff faces up to 10 years in prison and a quarter-million dollar fine if convicted on all counts.

"These cases take time to thoroughly and competently investigate. And, while this is still speedy by federal standards, our investigations don't happen overnight," said FBI Special-Agent-In Charge Brian Boetig.

"If we want to give the public all the facts and be able present those in court, it takes time to do a thorough and competent investigation. So, we appreciate everybody's patience."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.