Buffalo police responded to a call of a suicidal man threatening to kill himself with a butcher knife Saturday, running him over with a patrol SUV when he failed to drop the knife upon commands.
The incident was recorded by a witness, Sheila Woodard, who was live streaming it on Facebook where it quickly went viral with many criticizing the officer’s actions.
But police say they had to run the man over because he not only threatened an officer with the knife, causing them to fear for their lives, but they did not have a taser gun with them at the moment.
They say they only have two taser guns for the entire 800-officer department, leaving them no choice but to find other methods to apprehend suspects before resorting to outright shooting and killing them.
Besides, they say, the mentally ill man whom they ran over suffered only a non-life-threatening ankle injury.
The officer’s name has not been released, but his attorney, Tony Burton, said his client’s actions were justified, according to The Buffalo News.
The attorney of the officer involved says according to state law, it’s not what force someone uses, but whether it’s justified.
Police were called to an incident at a home on Chicago and Fulton Streets Saturday afternoon.
They say the man pointed a butcher knife at his own throat and toward officers, and using a stun gun wasn’t an option.
“Buffalo has two tasers for a department of almost 800 people. Those were both assigned to people who were not available at the moment. That’s an excellent question — it would have provided the officer with another option,” the attorney said.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda told local media that the reasons the department only has two taser guns is because they researched them in the past and discovered many times they lead to the deaths of suspects.
But John Evans, vice president for the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, who has been asking for tasers for years, argued that taser guns save lives.
The name of the victim has not been released, but police are familiar with him, having responded to his home several times over the years for mental illness episodes.