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Video: Knife-wielding man grapples with officers before he’s shot

One officer used a TASER before the shooting, but it seemed to not have an effect


Niagara Falls Police Department

By Aaron Besecker
The Buffalo News, N.Y.

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Reginald D. Barnes stood behind a Niagara Falls drug store with his back against a police vehicle at 5:57 p.m. Friday.

Officers investigating a suspicious person call in the neighborhood stopped him and learned from a woman he had sexually assaulted in the past that she had an order of protection against him.

Officer Greg Paul approached Barnes to place him in custody, but he pulled away. He fell to the ground and got up. He was hit with a stun from Officer Dominic Senese’s Taser, but seemed unaffected.

Barnes pulled a knife out of his pocket and charged at Senese. They struggled and two other officers fired shots at Barnes, who fell facedown on the grass next to a wooden fence.

That was the scene revealed Tuesday, as Niagara Falls police released video footage of the shooting captured by police-worn body cameras behind the Rite Aid at Niagara Falls Boulevard and 80th Street.

While the incident remains under investigation, police and city officials appeared confident that officers responded appropriately in a situation that “unfolded very quickly.”

“Their conduct was consistent with their training,” Mayor Robert M. Restaino said during a news conference in City Hall where officials showed about 30 seconds of the body cam footage.

Barnes, who turned 29 the day before he was shot, remains in critical condition in Erie County Medical Center, Police Superintendent John Faso said.

The video clip released to the public has no audio, officials said.

Officials declined to say how many shots were fired, how many times Barnes was shot or where on his body he was shot.

City officials identified the officers who fired their weapons as Lt. Joseph Scibilia and Officer Greg Paul.

Barnes is Black and the officers are white.

Senese, the officer who deployed his Taser, suffered a minor stab wound to his back, which penetrated his ballistic vest, as well as a bite to his forearm. He was treated at a hospital.

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After police shot Barnes, Senese and Officer Kayla Richards immediately began to perform first aid, Faso said. Barnes underwent surgery Friday night at ECMC.

Faso said three of the four officers involved are in their early 20s.

“This is every police officer’s nightmare,” he said.

No charges have been filed yet against Barnes, Niagara County District Attorney Brian Seaman said. Barnes’ medical condition is currently preventing the investigation from being completed, Seaman said.

Representatives of the state Attorney General’s Office of Special Investigation, as well as the district attorney’s office, were at the scene Friday night, Faso said.

Police said they initially received a 911 call about a suspicious person, but declined to give the name of the street where it was reported. They said it was in the same area as the Rite Aid, where police encountered Barnes about 15 minutes after receiving the call.

The 911 call came from near the residence of the woman Barnes had been convicted of sexually assaulting, officials said.

In August 2021, Barnes was arraigned on an eight-count indictment that accused him of forcing his way into a Falls woman’s home and sexually assaulting her three times in 2020.

He was charged with three counts of second-degree burglary and single counts of first-degree rape, attempted first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse. He also was charged with criminal mischief and second-degree assault, which stemmed from a police officer suffering a broken finger while arresting him after the third reported incident.

Barnes, a Falls resident, in May pleaded guilty in Niagara County Court to first-degree sexual abuse and was sentenced to 10 years’ probation, Faso said. An order of protection was issued to the victim in the case.

At some point, the victim in the case in which Barnes pleaded guilty arrived at the scene behind the Rite Aid, officials said. They declined to provide further details. Restaino said Barnes “was never with” the person who has the order of protection that night.

Under departmental procedure, Scibilia and Paul were placed on administrative leave after shooting Barnes.

Falls officers’ body cameras are not always recording, but when the cameras are activated, they are able to save the last 30 seconds of footage captured before activation. That portion, however, does not have audio, Faso said. Every officer’s body cams are able to recover that clip of footage, which had been temporarily saved, even though the device wasn’t recording, he said.

It took city officials about 29 hours after the incident to disclose to the public that police had shot someone.

A delay in reporting information about an officer-involved shooting can affect the public’s trust in police and government, The Buffalo News reported Monday, citing a guidebook by U.S. Department of Justice and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

News Staff Reporter Ben Tsujimoto contributed to this report.

(c)2022 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.)