Buffalo’s mayor imposed a citywide 8 p.m. curfew on Tuesday for the rest of the week after a New York State Police trooper suffered a broken leg and a shattered pelvis when an SUV barreled through a group of officers who had just charged people protesting George Floyd’s death.
Another trooper and a Buffalo police officer were treated for minor injuries after being struck by the Ford Explorer when it broke through a blockade at about 10 p.m. Monday and then sped away as troopers opened fire.
Troopers were deployed to Buffalo after violence flared this weekend.
“They were not there out of concern and pain and anger about what happened to George Floyd. They were not there to address issues of racial injustice or police brutality. For some people, it was a cover to loot, to vandalize, to throw rocks, to try to injure,” Mayor Byron Brown said during a news conference announcing the curfew. “We cannot allow that to happen.”
Investigators, meanwhile, were wrestling with numerous questions about the events leading up to the officers’ being struck by the SUV.
The driver and two passengers were apprehended a short time later after an Erie County Sheriff’s office helicopter directed Buffalo police to the SUV. The driver and one passenger had gunshot wounds. The other passenger was uninjured.
Still unknown Tuesday was when the people inside the SUV were shot and by whom, and whether the driver intentionally rammed officers or was fleeing an earlier shooting.
The two passengers were charged with possession of stolen property and criminal possession of a loaded firearm found inside the SUV, police said.
“There’s conflicting stories as to whether (the driver) was shot just prior to the incident — meaning the gun that was recovered in the car, did that come into play — or by New York State Police,” Police Capt. Jeffrey Rinaldo said.
The driver was shot twice and was hospitalized, he said, while the injured passenger had what appeared to be a “graze” wound.
Video posted by a bystander captured some of the chaos. It shows a line of police officers, backed up by an armored personnel carrier, rushing and tackling a man who was being interviewed for TV just before the officers were struck. Other officers used batons to whack at protesters, who ran.
Moments later, gunshots could be heard off camera and then the SUV came roaring through the crowd of officers, who scattered. State police identified the injured troopers as Ronald Ensminger Jr., a 19-year law enforcement veteran, and Randall Shenefiel, who had been a trooper for 17 years. The name of the Buffalo officer was not released.
Rinaldo said officers had just fired a round of tear gas to disperse a crowd that had become increasingly unruly as it moved through the city’s east side, stopping first at one police district station and then another.
Several stores were broken into and people were seen entering and stealing goods. The windows of a convenience store were smashed and protective metal bars had been pulled aside.
Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood said officers were moving the crowd away from a police station, but said he did not know why they tackled the man being interviewed.
Six people were arrested.
Brown said the curfew would be in effect through Sunday. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the curfew would extend to several first-ring suburbs Tuesday only.
Ensminger remained hospitalized Tuesday. Shenefiel was treated and released for a hand-and-wrist injury.