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Did officers disobey police department rules in Tuesday's police chase across Buffalo?

Posted at 6:39 PM, Mar 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 18:39:33-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — With sirens blaring, an officer declares over the police radio, "I'm hit, I'm hit." That officer heads to ECMC while the pursuit of Kente Bell, 28, who has since been arraigned on felony charges, continues.

The chase extends all over Buffalo. Police followed the suspect down the 198, onto the Kensington Expressway, and other side streets before the chase ended in the area of East Ferry and Fillmore. Multiple shots were fired during the pursuit, and at least nine police cars were damaged by bullets.

A 7 News I-Team analysis of the police dispatch from Tuesday night found that within 5 minutes of the first announcement that shots were fired at police vehicles, two officers had been struck by gunfire. Eight seconds after the second officer was hit, the duty officer called off the chase.

"Cut the pursuit, cut the pursuit, too many (sic) injured," said the duty officer.

But those orders were ignored.

The pursuit continued for another 14 minutes. In that time, a third officer was struck.

According to the Police Benevolent Association and the Erie County District Attorney's Office, the pursuit began after police pulled over Bell's vehicle because of tints on the windows.

According to the Buffalo Police Department's manual, "pursuit shall not be initiated if the reason for the attempted stop is only for Vehicle Traffic Law (VTL) violations, misdemeanors, or other non-violent felonies."

A police source tells 7 News that it would be against police policy to pursue a vehicle for a window tint violation. But John Evans, president of the PBA, which represents officers in investigations, says officers were justified in their pursuit.

"If they were attempting to pull the vehicle over for tints and the vehicle just sped off yeah that would have ceased the pursuit wouldn't have happened. [The suspect] did initially pull over. And something happened at that point and then he decided to take off. It was those actions that rose it to a higher level that justified the chase per department policy," said Evans.

Evans also believes officers were justified in continuing the chase after the duty officer called it off, which led to a third officer being shot.

"That's not a chase you would call off, when an individual is shooting at police officers," said Evans.

But the police source tells 7 News that disobeying orders is indeed something that should be part of the BPD's investigation.