One of Many Small Deaths of Innocence


In the spring of 1970 I walked around downtown Buffalo every day, picking up and delivering legal documents. One day, I was crossing Delaware from the Sheriff’s office to County Court, and passed within two feet of where a cop was putting handcuffs on a guy. You work downtown, you see stuff, and I didn’t think any more about it until the newspaper came out. The story was titled, “Police Deny Jail Escape; Witnesses Disagree”

Although several persons reported observing what appeared to be an escape attempt, the head of the police City Court detail Tuesday denied that a man sentenced to the County Penitentiary managed to break loose from detention….

Reports were circulated about 11 AM that the defendant managed to free himself… and run through a parking lot to Delaware Ave, between West Eagle and Church Sts.

This was denied by… head of the police City Court detail. He said that a member of the detail… had trouble with a prisoner in the detention cells but subdued him, that the prisoner never made his way out except under police escort…

Sadly for the City Court detail, another branch of law enforcement ratted them out.

Officials of the county sheriff’s office, asked if a prisoner had escaped from their custody, said they had been informed the prisoner escaped from Buffalo police.

Also, several people, including court officials, told the news reporter they had watched from courtroom windows as an officer waved a revolver at a fleeing man, and fired at least one warning shot.

Most importantly, I saw the cop handcuff the guy. I didn’t know it at the moment, not until the next day when I read the paper, but I had seen a thing the authorities definitely, undeniably lied about. Granted, as a participant in the dope culture, and a consumer of subversive literature, I was pretty sure the cops lied a lot.

But having suspicions, and seeing the proof right in front of you, those are two different things. That day made a difference in my life.

Photo credit: glennshootspeople on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC