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Cheektowaga man charged with attempted murder of deputy

Posted at 11:20 PM, Sep 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-12 13:20:26-04

The Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office launched a reverse 911 alert to residents after a suspect managed to take a deputy's duty pistol during an altercation early Sunday morning.

A female deputy responded to a car accident on Route 60 in Pomfret around 3:30 a.m. The deputy reported the driver, 21-year-old Justin Haffa, appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and attempted to arrest Haffa. During the arrest, the sheriff's office reports Haffa attacked the deputy, pinning her to the ground and brandishing a knife. The deputy fired her duty pistol, and Haffa was able to wrestle the pistol from the deputy and run off.

Haffa was not shot.

Deputies and other law enforcement agencies started a manhunt for Haffa, including the Erie County Sheriff's Office helicopter.

Haffa was found and taken into custody at 7:30 a.m. on Putnam Road in the Town of Stockton. According to the sheriff's office, he was still in possession of the deputy's pistol.

The deputy involved in the incident was treated and released from a local hospital. Haffa is charged with first-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault.

Details the sheriff's office will provide are currently limited because the investigation is ongoing.

The officer was alone when she was attacked; Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace says his department doesn't have the manpower or the funding for two-person patrols. He says the situation is very serious in nature, but it's one he's confident his deputies are trained for. 

"It's your worst nightmare, you know you're in this catch 22 where you're doing a job that can be very dangerous and things like this can happen unexpectedly," said Sheriff Gerace. 

Sheriff Gerace did not release how long the deputy has been with the department because of the ongoing investigation. He says she's currently on leave, but not because of her actions during the attack. She will be allowed to return whenever she sees fit.