The New York State Attorney General's Office has cleared two Buffalo Police officers of any criminal wrongdoing in the death of a Buffalo man shot and killed after a fight with officers.
Jose Hernandez Rossy, 26, was shot after a traffic stop and altercation with officers last May.
The attorney general's report states that New York law allows an officer to use deadly physical force against a fleeing suspect if the officer has reason to believe the suspect has just committed a felony involving physical force against another person.
"Based on a thorough investigation - an investigation that included accounts from more than a dozen civilian eyewitnesses and a review of photographic and video evidence - and an exhaustive legal analysis, under the chaotic circumstances preceding Mr. Hernandes Rossy's death, the officers' actions did not exceed the legally permissible standard of police conduct established by the United States Supreme Court and New York state law," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "This determination does not lessen the tragedy of Mr. Hernandez's death, nor does it excuse the use of excessive force by police in other cases. Nevertheless, we hope that today's extensive and transparent report about our investigation will provide the community and Buffalo PD with the facts, evidence and recommendations necessary to help prevent these types of tragic events from happening again."
The family of Hernandez Rossy has filed a civil rights violation lawsuit and a wrongful death lawsuit against the Buffalo Police Department, officers Joseph Acquino and Justin Tedesco, the City of Buffalo, then-Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda and American Medical Response.
According to court documents, Hernandez-Rossy's family claims he was unlawfully pulled over on Garfield Street on May 7, 2017 around 5 p.m. by Tedesco and Acquino. Both officers were known to Hernandez Rossy, and rushed the vehicle, forcefully entering the driver’s door of the car, the family alleges.
According to documents, Hernandez Rossy was startled by the officers’ actions and tried to drive away, but Officer Acquino grabbed the wheel and caused the car to become out of control and crash.
The family states Hernandez Rossy was grabbed by the neck and forced out of the car, dragged onto the sidewalk, beat and pistol-whipped. They say when he was able to get to his feet and run away, Tedesco fired several shots at Hernandez Rossy’s back, causing his death.
Buffalo Police Benevolent Association Attorney Burton said Hernandez Rossy refused to pull over for a narcotics stop. When he was finally blocked and approached by officers, Burton said it was Hernandez Rossy who pulled Officer Acquino into the cockpit of his SUV and dragged him while trying to speed off.
"As the guy spiked the accelerator, he hit the right front of the police car, then careened over the street and then hit the side of a house," Burton said.
Burton explained that Officer Acquino was severely injured with his ear hanging off and yelling that he was shot. That's when his partner, Officer Tedesco, fired the fatal shots that hit Hernandez-Rossy as he was fleeing the scene, Burton said.
There was speculation that Officer Acquino's ear was injured by an airbag that deployed following the crash.
The police union has said Tedesco never saw a gun displayed. A gun was never recovered from the scene.
Burton said Officer Acquino recovered a bag with over 100 hits of heroin from Hernandez Rossy's vehicle.
"He was a drug dealer and had good reason to run," said Burton.