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I-Team: Digging into the Wardel Davis death investigation

"No evidence" to charge officers, AG says
Posted at 5:36 PM, Dec 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-13 17:36:51-05

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Wednesday that the two Buffalo police officers who subdued Wardel Davis III will not be charged with any crime.

But according to Schneiderman’s 61-page report, that does not mean the department was completely blameless in the matter.

Officers Todd C. McAlister and Nicholas J. Parisi say Davis admitted he had drugs when they tried to handcuff him last February outside a known drug house on the West Side, the report states.

An officer admitted he punched Davis during the struggle, after which the 20-year-old stopped breathing, the report states, adding that the officer was legally justified in using such force.

Davis died a short time later, and even though davis' death was ruled a homicide, medical records say he died from pre-existing breathing problems that were exacerbated during the struggle.

To prove this point, investigators point to text messages sent days before the incident, where Davis complains of chest pains and shortness of breath. Friends tell him to go to the hospital. Toxicology experts also found drugs in Davis' system after his death.

Davis, of course, is not alive to give his version of events, and the report notes there is "no evidence" to contradict the officers' accounts because there were no witnesses and no video evidence such as body camera footage or dash camera footage.

Schneiderman’s office urges Buffalo police to adopt those systems and to seek accreditation from the state -- two steps the department is already taking -- and faults police for "shortcomings" in the way it collects evidence.

He adds that there is "real need of reform" not only with the police department, but also with the Erie County Medical Examiner’s office, particularly because medical officials insisted on checking with police before making their medical rulings on the death.