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Cop's attorney says Rivera fatal shooting is 'pretty straightforward' self-defense


The lawyer for Buffalo Police officer Elnur Karadzhaev says the evidence will show the officer defended himself and shot 32-year-old Rafael "Pito" Rivera within the law.

The evidence is accumulating on what happened early last Wednesday, which left Rivera lying dead in a Plymouth Avenue parking lot on the city's West Side.

The entire 3 a.m. incident was captured on a surveillance camera system described as the latest and best. It was installed on PUSH Buffalo's new re-development of the old School 77 at Plymouth and Massachusetts. Police grabbed the hard drive of the system with a grand jury subpoena, after at least one copy was made.

Lawyer Thomas Burton is representing Karadzhaev. He is a former cop who has a long history of defending cops in legal trouble.

Karadzhaev was responding to a radio call of a man with a gun. There was a short foot chase, then the shooting.

Police say the surveillance footage shows Rivera dropping a weapon. Burton says the surveillance camera clearly shows Rivera had a weapon, which police found at the scene.

"There won't be any razz-a-ma-tazz or fancy maneuvering here," Burton says. "This is pretty straightforward and the law makes it absolutely clear that a cop does not have to wait 'til he's shot or shot at before he responds to protect himself."

Burton says he wants an in-depth probe handled expeditiously.

"What I would like to do is let the public know that no officer out of the blue shoots someone for no good reason and we want it properly investigated," Burton says. "I'm very confident we will get a fair shake and objective treatment with the district attorney's office and these things take a little bit of time."

Burton says the video tape will be key evidence, as will the weapon siezed at the scene. He expects forensic experts to essentially take it apart and look for the source of the 9mm weapon.

"I suspect there'll be DNA testing, not only for the outside of the weapon and its grips, but the slide up on top, any rounds that were in the magazine for the weapon and, of course, the magazine itself," he says. "It's going to be interesting to see whose DNA is on that weapon."

Burton says there is an eyewitness to the entire incident and there are "ear-witnesses" who heard a voice say he was a police officer and the man should put down his weapon. Police radio calls are too disjointed to completely explain what happened.

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.
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