Buffalo officer won’t be charged in fatal shooting
Police ‘100 percent justified’ in actions against shoplifting suspect, DA says
Prosecutors say Buffalo Police Officer Joseph Meli acted out of self-defense when he shot and killed a shoplifting suspect last year.
They also believe Marcus Neal, the man who died, was armed with a knife and at one point lunged at Meli during their rooftop confrontation in Black Rock.
“He was either going to get stabbed or fall off the roof,” Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said Thursday. “At the end of the day, this was a justifiable shooting by Officer Meli.”
Flynn’s decision not to press charges against the second-year officer came just days after Neal’s family filed court papers indicating they plan to sue the city and seek monetary damages.
In their notice of claim, Neal’s father and son questioned police accounts of what happened that night in December, including the presence of a knife.
“We have another black man killed by police under what appear to be suspicious circumstances,” Donald M. Thompson, one of the lawyers representing the family, said Thursday.
Thompson said the family will look at the evidence gathered by Flynn’s office before filing a formal lawsuit against the city.
With Thompson sitting in the same room, Flynn outlined for reporters what led to his conclusion that the shooting on Gladstone Street was reasonable and necessary.
First and foremost, he pointed to Neal’s actions on the roof, including that moment when he allegedly reached into his backpack and pulled out a 3½-inch folding knife.
Flynn said Neal began cutting his own arm with the knife and told officers they were going to have to shoot him.
At that point, officers pepper-sprayed Neal, who responded by wiping his face with snow.
“Now, he starts walking toward the officers, knife in hand,” Flynn said.
At that point, Neal lunged at Meli and the officer responded by shooting Neal twice in the right side and once in the buttocks, Flynn said. He noted that Neal continued to fight officers, even after being shot three times.
When asked if Neal was seeking what police call “suicide by cop,” Flynn said he didn’t know but suggested it was possible.
Either way, he said, the shooting was necessary.
Shooting on Page A7