Marcus Neal came back to Western New York last fall and was reconnecting with old friends in the place where he grew up. Three months later, the 47-year-old was dead, killed by three bullets from a Buffalo police officer’s gun. Police have told Neal’s family he was seen shoplifting “small personal items” from Wegmans on December 12. About 20 minutes later and roughly a mile away, following a pursuit by police, he was shot on the roof of a garage in Black Rock. He died the next day.
His family has hired a law firm to investigate his death, according to his father, Charles B. Neal III. “From what they said the violation was, such a minor violation, I think that they created a scenario that was unnecessary,” Neal said of police. “Totally unnecessary.”
According to the police department’s account of what happened, which Neal’s family members note has not been accompanied by the disclosure of any corroborating evidence, he was identified as a shoplifting suspect at the supermarket. An on-duty police officer who was at the store was flagged down by employees and then put a description out over the police radio. A man said to match that description was seen nearby on Grote Street. Officers pursued him, and he eventually made it onto the roof of a four-car garage.
Police said Neal had a knife and began cutting himself. At some point, they used pepper spray on him. According to police, he charged at them with the knife. That’s when Officer Joseph Meli shot him twice in the abdomen and once in the leg. It took Buffalo firefighters about 15 minutes to get Neal down from the roof after the call of “shots fired” went out over police radio and before he was put in an ambulance. The police department says the officer had no choice but to shoot Neal because he was armed and charged at officers. Neal’s death remains under investigation by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office and the Buffalo Police Department, according to spokespersons for each office. [Source: The Buffalo News]