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Vigil to remember late police officer Craig Lehner, one year later

File photo

It was one year ago today that the Buffalo Police officer Craig Lehner’s body was recovered by crews in the Niagara River near Broderick Park. Lehner died after being trapped underwater during a diving training exercise. One year to the date his body was discovered, law enforcement officers and community members will come together from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at that same spot to remember his life.

“You go to work one day, you may not come home,” says Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo. “Whether it’s on a traffic stop, chasing a bad guy with a gun, or it’s training in high risk situations, there’s always that risk, and it’s a risk that we as police officers freely accept.”

For Rinaldo and the rest of the officers of the Buffalo Police Department, it brings back a time of grief and mourning from losing one of their own.

“It’s a very sad time in the police department,” he says. “We’re all kind of reliving what we went through last year. But it’s a time to honor Craig and his family and just remember the great sacrifice that he made.”

Lehner, a nine-year veteran of the force, was a member of the department's Underwater Recovery Team, in addition to his regular duties with the K-9 unit. It was while a member of that recovery team that he was caught in the swift currents of the Niagara River last October. It was later revealed that shortly after his initial plunge into the river, the safety line attached to his scuba suit snapped, causing him to drown.

The candlelight vigil is being held by the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association at Broderick Park, where visitors can pay their respects and honor the memory of Lehner. His former K-9 partner, Shield, is also expected to be in attendance.

Ryan Zunner joined WBFO in the summer of 2018 as an intern, before working his way up to reporter the following summer.