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Two charged in violent attack on Erie County sheriff's deputy in Grand Island

Erie County Sheriff's Office

Two Grand Island residents are charged in a violent attack on an Erie County Sheriff's Deputy, including an individual who was out on bail for an alleged death threat against a deputy last month.

The incident occurred late Wednesday evening on Whitehaven Road near East River Road. Sheriff Tim Howard says Deputy Jason Clark was investigating a suspicious vehicle report when a second vehicle drove by the scene several times. A passenger in that car, identified by authorities as 22-year-old Sammy Abdellatif, allegedly shouted threats at the deputy. Upon finishing up the original call, Deputy Clark attempted to arrest Abdellatif.

"Upon informing him that he was under arrest for his conduct, the individual rolled the window of the vehicle up on the deputy's hand," Howard said. "In extracting his hand, the window of the vehicle was broken. The passenger of the vehicle immediately exited the vehicle and attacked the deputy."

Investigators allege the driver of the vehicle, identified as 21-year-old Brittany Ashley-Graser, also left the vehicle and joined in the attack by jumping on Clark's back.

According to Howard, Abdellatif was able to put Clark in a chokehold during which the officer begam losing consciousness. But as that was happening a passing civilian, identified as Peter O'Brien, intervened to assist Deputy Clark but was himself attacked by a pit bull that emerged from the suspects' vehicle. O'Brien, according to Sheriff Howard, suffered bite marks on his hand but was otherwise not seriously harmed.  

"Were it not for the actions of Mr. O'Brien, this very easily could have ended with another dead police officer," said Acting Erie County District Attorney Michael Flaherty.

The pit bull, according to Flaherty, was in the custody of the animal shelter. Its fate was unknown, and Flaherty said it was not up to his office nor the Sheriff's Office to determine whether to euthanize the dog.

A second deputy, Nick Coniglio, arrived on the scene and, with his gun drawn, was able to get Abdellatif into custody, but only after the suspect violently resisted, kicking Coniglio as he tried to bring the suspect into a patrol car.

Abdellatif is charged with attempted murder. Ashley-Graser is charged with felony assault, obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest. Additional charges may be pending.

"The case will be presented to an Erie County grand jury very soon, in the coming weeks," Flaherty said. "That grand jury will be able to listen to the evidence and render a decision as to whether there's sufficient evidence to charge him with that crime and additional crimes."

The Sheriff's Office says Abdellatif was already in trouble with the law over alleged death threats made against a law enforcer and was out on bail at the time of Wednesday night's attack. That case, which is still pending in court, stems from a traffic stop in July involving Deputy Clark and Ashley-Graser.

Credit Erie County Sheriff's Office
Deputy Jason Clark (left) was recovering from his injuries suffered in a violent attack by two suspects Wednesday night. Deputy Nick Coniglio (right) arrived on the scene moments after the attack and, along with a civilian, subdued the assailants.


According to investigators, Ashley-Graser failed to present identification and did not cooperate with Clark during the stop. It resulted in the car, which belonged to Abdellatif, being towed. Sheriff Howard says Abdellatif followed by phoning in a threat against Clark.

"Mr. Abdellatif called the 911 dispatcher and said that the next time he sees this deputy, he will kill him," Howard stated.

Deputy Clark was treated and released from Erie County Medical Center and, according to Howard, was resting with his family Thursday.

Erie County Sheriff's Office spokesman Scott Zylka says Deputy Clark has received community support through social media and that anyone interested in forwarding letters or cards for Clark could do so in care of the Sheriff's Office at 10 Delaware in Buffalo.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.