Officials no longer sure man killed by police had shot cop

May 10, 2017 - 1:14 pm

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — There are "significant questions" over whether a man pulled over for a traffic stop shot a policeman before being killed by the officer's partner, a prosecutor said Wednesday as state authorities took over the investigation into the deadly encounter.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said Buffalo Officer Joseph Acquino thought his ear was hit by a bullet during a struggle with Jose Hernandez-Rossy on Sunday. Acquino's partner then shot Hernandez-Rossy, who fled on foot but was found a short distance away. The 26-year-old father of three later died at hospital.

The gun he supposedly used hasn't been found despite police searches of the residential neighborhood where the encounter unfolded after officers pulled over Hernandez-Rossy's vehicle for a traffic violation.

Police officials said he became combative with the officers and a struggle ensued. Buffalo police said Hernandez-Rossy fired once, and the bullet nearly tore off Acquino's ear. Surgeons reattached it Sunday night.

Authorities are no longer sure Acquino was shot at all. The officer said he had been shot and police initially had no reason to doubt Acquino's account, Flynn said.

"After the course of our investigation over the past 48 hours, significant questions now exist" over whether that's true, Flynn said.

On Tuesday, the office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced it had taken over the investigation. A 2015 state law allows the attorney general to act as a special prosecutor when unarmed civilians are killed by police or if there are questions about whether a civilian was armed. The investigation is being led by the office's Special Investigation and Prosecution Unit.

"We're committed to conducting an independent, comprehensive, and fair investigation," said attorney general spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick.

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