By Frank Parlato
Last week Artvoice reported on claims that The Narcotics Division of the Buffalo Police Department shot two pit bulls while conducting seemingly fruitless raids on citizen’s homes in search of drugs.
It created a public outcry.
Buffalo Police say their officers shot only one of two dogs killed and the other dog was killed by an Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy, a fact that has now been confirmed.
Artvoice learned that in the BPD raid of Michael Urban’s house on Esser St., where one of the two pit bulls was killed, police either acted on poor information or they had the wrong house.
The warrant that authorized police to invade the home, order Urban to the floor and shoot his dog, was based on false information that a black man lived at the house. Urban is white.
Police also raided Urban’s downstairs neighbor, Jami Krafchak, at her apartment.
Neither Urban nor Krafchak were charged with any crime.
No one at Urban’s or Krafchak’s home matched the descriptions of the targets of the search warrants.
Jami Krafchak described the morning when police broke down her door:
I was home alone, not fully dressed – when about two dozen police, with all of their guns, came running in, shouting at me to put my hands in the air, that it’s a raid. With their giant spotlight shining at me, I couldn’t even see who they were. They zip-tied my hands behind my back like handcuffs. I was freaking out, shaking, crying not knowing what was going on. I was telling them who I am, that it’s a mistake, where I work, etc., but they didn’t want to hear it, just act tough. They were all so hyped up. I was alone.
I was hysterical, panicking, like ‘this can’t be real,’ but ohhh it was. I was in my bra and they took pictures. They tried to give me a dress to put on to cover up with while my hands were still tied behind my back. Eventually they moved the zip ties to the front …. They had a warrant looking for a specific substance and a general description of a person that doesn’t match any-one/anything that has ever been in my home. They asked me over and over and over and over if my husband was black (even though there was a collage of our photos right in front of them).
They simultaneously raided my upstairs neighbor’s (Michael Urban’s) apartment (a warrant with a completely different description/race and substance than what they were looking for on our warrant).They immediately shot and killed his dog. He cried out for them not to hurt the dog and they just had to shoot the dog again. …. They wouldn’t even let him say goodbye to his dog after all was said and done (RIP Gotham) before they had the audacity to take his body out and transport it away — leaving him to clean up the blood and brains of his beloved pup… After they found nothing in either of our apartments! There is a bullet hole from them shooting the pup that went through his floor and through our ceiling along with blood splatters. …..
Finally they go to leave, after finding nothing, with door frames hanging off, everything a mess and I got a halfhearted sorry on the way out. One plainclothes detective tried to hammer our door frame back on before he left so I guess there’s that to make it all better. They killed my neighbor’s dog and he got no apology whatsoever …. Their so-called informant should have some damn consequences for their bad information.
I get it that they’re walking into an unknown, possibly dangerous situation, but … they smashed into our apartment on bad information with 20-25(ish) of people to back them up along with tons of protective gear. Shoot his FRIEND-LY dog even though they had dog catcher loops and could’ve tranquilized him or tazed him or something.
Urban lost his pet Gotham
Michael Urban saw his puppy Gotham shot to death. Referring to police, he said,
“How can a defenseless dog be killed? You let off two shotgun shots. One. Cock. Two. NO investigation. How can this keep going on!!!! You ain’t ‘AFRAID’ of a man pointing a gun in your face. But you shot my buddy. YOU COWARDS.”
And Mike Urban posted to the world on Facebook:
“It’s finally sunny, no rain, so Gotham stopped crying. He’s smiling now God probably pulled him aside and showed him the website on the news.
Knowing how much you loved to watch TV with daddy. Thank you everyone. This has to come to light even more then it is now. And these … cops and judges, this mayor and BPD have to be held to ac-countable. Gotham, daddy will make it happen I promise you!
And again Urban said,
“My dog Gotham was brutally gunned down by …Buffalo Police at 630 am. Warrant with my address. Snitch gave wrong info. As Ii begged and pleaded for Gotham’s life. As he wagged his tail. Didn’t lunge forward didn’t bark, whimper or growl. “
Gotham’s ‘mommy’ speaks
At the Urban home, Gotham’s adopted ‘mommy’ said this about the raid and her beloved dog, while speaking to her late lamented Gotham:
“I remember this day like it was yesterday. The day you came into my life. I fell in love with you that day. And you changed my world. You showed me how it felt to care so much for one thing that I’d do anything for to keep safe and happy. You deserved a home fill with so much loving, care, and happiness. You had all that. And I can’t stop speaking out to you to tell you enough how sorry I am. That you did not deserve to go that way. A baby that didn’t know evil or hate and that last sec-ond, they took everything from you.
I’m sorry puppy. I’m sorry i didn’t run in to protect you. I begged for you. I knew how scared you’ve been and all I wanted was you. To protect you and keep you safe. I thought they served and protect, if I would’ve known they were go-ing to kill you, mommy would’ve ran in for you. The looks on their face when I asked for you. They knew. They couldn’t look at me. They knew i was coming. They knew you needed me, but they didn’t let me in.”
Cindy Meer lost her dog as grandson watched
Cindy Meer tells of how her dog Damian was killed at her home on Esser Avenue in Buffalo last month:
“I had just got home when the front door slammed into the hall and about 6-8 heavily armed Erie County Sheriff’s busted into our residence. They were screaming, “raid,” and get down.
We immediately lay down on the floor.
Cayden (her two year old grand-son) was screaming hysterically. I begged Police Officers to have the chance to call someone so that my grandson would not have to see this. Instead, an Officer told me to shut up.
Damian (the family pet, a six year old pit bull) was upstairs in a back bedroom sleeping with (another child.) The door was shut. I was lying face down on the ground next to my son Cory. Cayden was screaming ‘Merna,’ which was what he called me.
“I was trying to talk to Cayden and calm him down from across the room and the next thing I remember was hearing three shots. Cayden had a clear view of what had taken place…
“Ordinarily Cayden and Damian nap together between 1-3, so it was actually just a stroke of luck we had just gotten back from lunch and he hadn’t taken his nap yet. Otherwise, he would have been coming down the stairs with Damian.
“Two bullets are lodged in my freezer …I heard Damian rolling down the stairs and landed at the bottom with a thud.
“Cayden was brought over to me and my zip ties were undone. I was hysterical, but also trying to keep it together for Cayden.
“Since Damian was killed, Cayden seems to have flashbacks where he breaks into crying spells and begins to shake and cry uncontrollably….
“Our house smells like blood. There’s brain splatter over the house and fragments of bone still.
“The Police also trashed our house, breaking numerous property items of ours, including our family heirlooms. Damian was not nor ever has been a threat to anyone.”
Corey Meer tells his story
Cindy’s son, Cory Meer was also present that day. He recalls,
I was in the family room, with my mother (when) the front door slammed into the hall and … Erie County Sheriff s busted into our residence… screaming, “raid,” and get down. We immediately lay down on the floor.
(My son) Cayden was screaming hysterically. I tried telling Cayden it’ll be ok, at which point whoever was zip tying me told me to shut up and punched me in the face.
…Bobby (another child sleeping upstairs with the dog Damian) must have opened the bedroom door to see what was going on. Damian began to come downstairs. He did not growl, run, or anything. He was at the landing between the two sets of stairs that separate the upstairs from the downstairs. My head was facing down but I heard three shots. Two year old Cayden had a clear view of what had taken place, even though we were begging the Officers to let Cayden come to my mom where he would be safer.
I was bawling my eyes out, as was my Mom. I was then dragged by my foot to the couch where Cayden had a full view of the bottom of the stairway where Damian was lying dead. One cop said to me, ‘be a man.’
My wrists were turning purple due to a lack of circulation from the zip ties. I asked them to loosen the zip ties and they came back and put handcuffs on me instead. My fingers were numb for two days after-wards.
None of the dog owners were arrested.
Neither Corey nor Cindy Meer, or Mike Urban or Jami Krafchak;s whose homes were invaded were arrested.
Animal control removed the dead bodies of Damian and Gotham.
The drugs described to authorize the raid were not found there, neither were the people described in the warrants, who didn’t live at these homes and never did.
Too many similar stories
Meer and Urban’s attorney, Mathew Albert provided Artvoice with.92 use of force reports which involved dog shootings by Buffalo Police that occurred between Jan. 1, 2011 through Sept. 2014.
79 resulted in deaths of dogs.
Since then it was thought that the dog shooting had died down.
But last month’s killings has brought the issue into sharp focus.
Albert said he has 12 active lawsuits against Buffalo Police based on unreasonable searches and police brutality while conducting raids and shooting dogs recklessly.
There are far too many stories to recount, like Alicia Robinson whose Rhodesian Ridgeback, Surabia was safely crated, she claims, when an officer “baited and intentionally let her out of her crate so they could kill her without cause.”
And the case of Adam Arroyo, a decorated combat veteran who faced the enemy in Iraq.
Albert says police didn’t have to shoot his mini pit bull Cindy who was tethered to the sink, when police searched the wrong house.
Since she was tethered to the sink, (Arroyo wasn’t home), they could have called animal control to intervene.
Instead they shot and killed Cindy, who was 2.5 years old at the time.
According to Albert, it is hard to know just how often it occurs.
“I filed Freedom of Information Law requests to all relevant agencies to obtain all information on dog killing police raids.
“To date, they are operating in secrecy and not providing documents.”
After Damian and Gotham were shot, Albert went to the Buffalo Animal Shelter to preserve evidence on the dog’s shooting deaths.
Albert said, “The staffer asked me which one was this and told me that many more dogs were shot in that weekends’ raids.”
The following photographs are not actual photographs of local police or dogs killed here. They are intended to depict similar circumstances as to what is happening here and all over the country in the quest to fight the illness of drug addiction with the liberty crunching “war on drugs.”