Man killed by police officer in Cheektowaga was troubled — (The Buffalo News)

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The Buffalo News

By , and Lou Michel

Published

When Darrell P. Bosell was sober, friends say, he was one of the kindest and most thoughtful people in the Town of Java.

But when he drank to excess, which was often the case, he became a different person, one who could be dangerous to himself and others.

An on-duty Cheektowaga police officer found that out during a confrontation Saturday night. Bosell approached the officer with his gun drawn, and when the incident was over, Bosell was dead.

The officer, apparently fearing for his life, fired twice at Bosell, who died later in a local hospital.

Heartbroken friends talked about the 34-year-old Bosell on Monday, two days after he was fatally shot in what they suspect could have been a case of “suicide by cop.”

Friends believe that Bosell, intoxicated at the time, may have instigated the situation, knowing that he would be shot and killed when he pointed a stolen gun – which was not loaded – at the police officer and ordered him out of his patrol car.

“I never thought he would do something like that. He must have wanted the cop to kill him,” said Chris Hoffman, who described Bosell as a close friend, one who drank heavily and suffered from depression. “A while ago, he went to the hospital and got on medication for depression but stopped because he said he couldn’t afford the medicine.”

Thomas H. Burton, an attorney representing the police officer through his police union, agreed that the “suicide by cop” theory might have merit.

“As more facts have become known, especially with the background from family members, this is clearly pointing in the direction that this man wanted the officer to be the vehicle for his own demise,” Burton said.

But authorities, even friends and loved ones, may never know Bosell’s motive.

“We’re never going to be able to say what he had in his mind,” Cheektowaga Assistant Police Chief James J. Speyer Jr. said Monday afternoon. “To come to a conclusion like that, I guess it’s for everybody else to decide when all the evidence is brought to the table, and you’re looking at the whole picture.”

But first, police have to complete their investigation, after talking with as many people as they can, Speyer added.

The incident occurred at about 11 p.m. Saturday, in the front parking lot of the Best Western Hotel, 4630 Genesee St., across from Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Prelude to confrontation

The trouble started with the State Police looking for Bosell, on suspicion of stealing a legal handgun from a relative who owned it. The incident ended after police tracked the suspect’s location through his cellphone.

Cheektowaga Police Chief David J. Zack, during a news conference Monday morning, outlined the events leading up to the shooting:

At about 10 p.m. Saturday, State Police contacted Cheektowaga police to report that Bosell had stolen a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun with eight rounds, along with 30 additional rounds. That theft was reported to State Police just before 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

State Police also reported that Bosell was believed to be at a location on Dale Road, and police were given his cellphone number.

“Mr. Bosell had been drinking heavily all day,” Zack said, and there were concerns about his state of mind.

At 10:10 p.m., Cheektowaga police reached the Dale Road location but quickly determined that Bosell wasn’t there. A member of the department’s Crisis Intervention Team – the officer who later shot Bosell – reached Bosell on his phone but didn’t learn his location.

After another possible location, on Sonwil Drive, turned out to be fruitless, the police officer again made contact with Bosell.

“He was clearly in severe emotional distress,” Zack said of the suspect.

With the assistance of the suspect’s cellphone provider, police tracked him to the Best Western, where he had rented a room. Police rushed to that scene at about 11 p.m.

“Within 13 seconds of that officer’s arrival, that officer believed he had spotted Mr. Bosell,” Zack said.

The dashboard camera in the officer’s vehicle clearly showed a handgun in the suspect’s right hand, the chief said. The suspect then “aggressively” approached the officer, “leaving the officer no alternative but to defend himself using deadly physical force,” Zack added.

Although portions of the altercation are not visible in the dash-cam recording, there is audio throughout.

“We can definitely see (Bosell) does face the officer, and the handgun comes up in the direction of the officer,” Zack said. “That’s clear on the video.”

After the shooting, Cheektowaga police officers started to administer first aid to Bosell, before paramedics arrived and rushed him to Sisters Hospital, St. Joseph Campus.

“Sadly, Mr. Bosell did not survive,” Zack said.

Different sides of Bosell

Hoffman described Bosell, a father of two young children, as someone with an incredibly generous heart who went out of his way to help Hoffman when he lost his job because of a disabling illness.

“When our son was born 18 months ago, Darrell stopped by with a yellow SpongeBob-shaped television for the baby,” said Hoffman, who broke down emotionally in recalling the generous side of his friend. “When we wanted to go camping in the summer, he brought us over a tent so we could go down to Allegany State Park.”

Bosell also brought scrap metal to Hoffman so that he could sell it at an area scrap yard.

“He knew I didn’t have any money and he was trying to help my family out,” Hoffman said.

But there was another, frightening side to Bosell that surfaced during his frequent drinking binges, according to Hoffman and his wife, Mandy.

Mandy Hoffman recalled an evening two summers ago when Bosell showed up at a campfire where friends had gathered to socialize.

“He was drunk and started acting belligerent, so we left,” she said. “He started following us in his pickup truck and he was all over the road. Then he flies by us and the next thing he’s off the road and rolling down the side of a hill. He must have rolled over three times and stopped in a ditch upside down. I was like ‘Oh, my God. Oh, my God.’

“I said to myself, ‘No way did he live through that.’ I was afraid to go over because I didn’t know what we’d find, but the next thing we know, he’s shouting and slurring, ‘I’m OK. I’m OK.’ I said, ‘Darrell, you’re not OK. You’re lucky to be alive. You need to stop drinking and driving because you’re not very good at it.”

Bosell, however, was planning his escape.

“Good thing I know the farmer down the road. He can tow me,” Bosell said.

A short time later, Chris Hoffman recalled, Bosell showed up in his pickup truck outside the Hoffmans’ apartment.

“Darrell got out of the pickup with a bottle of Seagram’s and asked me if I wanted a shot. I said, ‘Come on, Darrell, go home to your wife. She’s worried sick about you.’ ”

Bosell drove away, but not in the direction of the home he and his wife, Stephanie, shared with her parents on Beaver Meadow Road.

On numerous occasions, Chris Hoffman said, he had heart-to-heart talks with Bosell, urging him to stop drinking.

“But whenever he showed up, he had a plastic cup filled with alcohol,” Hoffman said.

Bosell had worked for his father-in-law’s business, which supplies portable toilets for events, but also took other jobs such as cutting down timber for firewood and working as a mechanic, according to Hoffman.

The Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Monday that Bosell was arrested on a charge of aggravated driving while intoxicated in June 2014. He was accused of registering blood-alcohol content of 0.20 percent, more than twice the legal limit.

In recent months, the visits from Bosell became less frequent.

“I told him if he ever needed anything to come here to me, but I hadn’t seen much of him when he moved in with his in-laws,” Chris Hoffman said, again moved to tears. “This is heartbreaking. I never saw him with a gun. He had a couple of pocketknives, that was about it.”

Chris Hoffman also feels for Bosell’s wife. “She is a really good person. She has a heart of gold. She put up with (his drinking),” he said.

Bosell’s relatives late Monday issued a statement through their attorney, Mason A. Meyer, expressing gratitude to the various law enforcement agencies for their professionalism throughout the ordeal:

“We are grateful that no officer was hurt. We pray for the responding officer and his family, that he will be able to return to his job and serve his community soon. The Bosell family needs time to heal and respectfully request their privacy at this time.”

Aftermath of shooting

Police are confident that the officer was justified in shooting Bosell, Zack reiterated.

“From what we know now,” he said, “I don’t think there is any question that the officer involved in this occurrence had any choice but to defend himself.”

At the news conference, Zack offered his “deepest condolences” to Bosell’s family. “This is a tragedy for all concerned,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Bosell’s family at this time.”

Burton, representing the officer, agreed. “As tragic as this is, the fact that the gun was unloaded has no bearing on whether the officer’s use of deadly force was warranted,” he said. “When you’re facing the business end of an automatic, the last thing the cop’s concerned about is whether there’s a round in the chamber.”

The officer still has not been identified, but at a news conference Sunday, he was described as a 16-year veteran of the Cheektowaga police force. Another source called him a former SWAT team member who was “highly trained in close-quarters, deadly force combat such as this.” The officer was alone in his marked police vehicle and was not hurt.

In accordance with Police Department policy, the officer is on paid administrative leave and is cooperating with the investigation.

“Thankfully,” Speyer said, “he went home to his family.”

email: lmichel@buffnews.com, abesecker@buffnews.com and gwarner@buffnews.com