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Lt. Craig Lehner memorialized on one-year anniversary

At a gathering Wednesday evening, there was enough wind to blow out memorial candles. Cops and civilians gathered to remember Buffalo Police Lt. Craig Lehner, who died a year ago during an Underwater Rescue Team training drill.


Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Lt. Craig Lehner''s former K-9 partner, Shield, was in attendance with family and friends.

Rev. James Lewis III, chief chaplain of the Buffalo Police Department, has been providing counseling and help for officers and families in the dangerous line of work. Wednesday, he reached into the Old Testament, to the 23rd Psalm.

"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me," Lewis said. "You prepare tables informing the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely, justice and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever. All the people that loved Lt. Craig Lehner, say Amen."

The crowd repeated, "Amen."

The music for "Amazing Grace" played during the memorial held in Broderick Park, where the training drill had been held. Members of the Lehner family were there Wednesday, as were family members of Officer James Shields, killed in a high-speed chase in 2002. Lehner's K-9 dog Shield - named for Shields - was there, watching carefully and moving around in the large crowd.

The event was sponsored by the Police Benevolent Association. Police Officer Robert Mercurio said the Lehner family members are strong people.

Lt. Craig Lehner was remembered on the one-year anniversary of his body found after a diving training drill.

"What happened is the Lehner family is extremely supportive for us and that, in itself, is a true testament to the type of people that they are," said Mercurio, "and they said, 'Yeah, we want you to do something and that's why we went ahead and had this vigil.' But, of course, the reason is to come together as a community and show our support for each other and the Lehner family."

Brooklyn Police Department chaplain Reverend Matthew Miller asked for support of officers.

"We're here to mark the last full measure that can be asked of any police officer," said Miller. "So we just ask that you continue to support your local law enforcement and that you support these families who have to go through these anniversaries of very trying and difficult times."

It took five days for Lehner's body to be found, after he disappeared in the murky, fast-moving waters of the Niagara River. The BPD has not held any more drills in the Niagara River since then. Lehner's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the department.

The dome of City Hall was also lit blue on Wednesday. The city said it was to honor the lives of all fallen Buffalo Police officers, including Lehner.

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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