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Tonawanda police officer was suspended after punching man, slamming woman’s head in courtroom

Lewandowski may now face termination
Posted at 11:46 AM, Feb 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 18:22:02-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — An award-winning Town of Tonawanda police officer was suspended twice since 2016 for punching a man and slamming a woman’s head against a courtroom wall during a violent encounter and for taunting a state trooper who refused to fix a traffic ticket for a family member.

Now, Officer Michael G. Lewandowski may be on the verge of losing his job.

The Buffalo News reported Friday that the Town Board “voted Monday to authorize Supervisor Joseph Emminger or Assistant Police Chief Joseph Fennell to take any appropriate actions against Lewandowski” after a new incident came to light.

7 Eyewitness News has been reviewing Lewandowski’s case for more than a month and has obtained internal records that show he was suspended twice in the last few years for a total of 13 days. Click here to read the disciplinary records obtained by the I-Team.

In addition, video footage obtained exclusively by the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team shows Lewandowski violently escalating a confrontation with a man and a woman who were sitting in Town of Tonawanda Court in December 2016.

Violent courtroom scene

Courtroom cameras show Lewandowski standing over the couple, who were seated in the courtoom, and disciplinary records state that he “did aggressively precipitate a verbal and physical encounter to unjustifiably remove a male and female civilian” from the courtroom.

Video shows Lewandowski attempting to punch the man as he struggles with officers, and twice when the woman tries to intervene, Lewandowski shoves her head, first against the courtroom door and later against the cinder block wall in the hallway outside the courtroom.

Police disciplinary documents state that Lewandowski directed “profane language at several civilians while court was in session.” Referring to the physical encounter, the documents stated that there was “no basis for the legal justification of the use of such force.”

Lewandowski was suspended for 10 days but the suspension was reduced to five days after Lewandowski, who is white, agreed to submit to implicit bias training courses. The man in the incident was Black, while the woman appears to be white.

In June 2019, Lewandowski was honored by the American Legion as the recipient of the Erie County American Legion Law & Order Award, according to a congratulatory post on the police department’s Facebook page.

But two months later, a member of the New York State Police called Lewandowski’s supervisors to complain that Lewandowski “has been sending this [trooper] messages constantly harassing him using foul language,” internal records stated.

Attempted ticket-fixing

The trooper issued a traffic ticket to Lewandowski’s aunt, disciplinary records stated. Lewandowski “was dissatisfied with this and...he told the trooper he wanted him to contact the court.”

When Lewandowski asked if it was possible to void the ticket, records show the trooper stated, “I’m not fixing a ticket for you.”

After a friend sent Lewandowski a picture of the trooper receiving a certificate of excellence, disciplinary records stated that Lewandowski texted the trooper the following message: “Excellence must be for writing cops family members. Keep up the good work. I’ll make sure to let everyone in Erie County know how good of a job you do with that aspect.”

Lewandowski told his superiors that “he sent the text in jest and did not believe it would be perceived as anything more,” disciplinary records stated. Lewandowski was suspended for eight days without pay.

A public information officer for Town of Tonawanda police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Lewandowski’s status, but The News reported that he now faces possible termination for a 2020 incident involving Lewandowski’s response to a neighbor dispute.

7 Eyewitness News attempted to contact Lewandowski through a police public information officer, but has not heard back. His attorney, Emily Trott, also did not respond to a message seeking comment.