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DA: Police shooting probe includes 'significant question' of whether civilian was armed

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Moving forward, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn is no longer commenting on the continuing investigation of a civilian's shooting death by a Buffalo Police officer. Flynn hosted a news conference late Wednesday morning to explain the New York State Attorney General's takeover of the case.

In 2015, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order No. 147, which appoints the attorney general as the special prosecutor in certain cases of police involvement in the deaths of civilians. On Tuesday, the Attorney General's Office announced it has opened its probe into the death of Jose Hernandez-Rossy, citing the governor's executive order.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn opened his news conference by detailing the governor's executive order and the conditions by which the attorney general may step in.

"The special prosecutor may also investigate and prosecute in such circumstances where, in his opinion, there's a significant question as to whether the civilian was armed and dangerous at the time of his or her death," Flynn stated.  

Hernandez-Rossy died of gunshot wounds after investigators say he got into a confrontation with Buffalo Police officers in the city's Black Rock section. It began as a traffic stop, according to police, but Hernandez-Rossy allegedly tried to flee. Officer Joseph Acquino was partially inside the vehicle and suffered a serious head wound and underwent surgery. He continued to recover from his injuries on Wednesday. 

It was reported Sunday evening that Acquino was allegedly shot by Hernandez-Rossy, who in turn was shot by the other responding officer, Justin Tedesco. There are now questions being raised as to whether Hernandez-Rossy ever possessed a gun. And that has led the attorney general to step in.

The Buffalo News reported Wednesday that blood found on a discharged airbag in Hernandez-Rossy's vehicle matches that of Acquino. 

Flynn carefully suggested twice during his news conference that the wounded officer truly thought he was shot.

"Initially, at the time, Officer Acquino thought he was shot," Flynn said. "And initially, the Buffalo Police Department had no reason to not think that was true."

Flynn also dismissed any notions of a police cover-up, saying that the Buffalo Police Department contacted both his office and the attorney general Sunday evening. 

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.
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