News from the New York Attorney General’s Office
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 20, 2018
Attorney General’s Office Press Office / 212-416-8060
ATTORNEY GENERAL’S SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS AND PROSECUTIONS UNIT RELEASES REPORT ON THE DEATH OF SUSAN LoTEMPIO
BUFFALO – Today, New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit (SIPU) released a comprehensive report on its investigation into the March 2018 death of Susan LoTempio in the City of Buffalo.
As detailed in the report, on March 30, 2018, Susan LoTempio, died tragically after being hit by a Buffalo Police Department (“BPD”) patrol vehicle driven by Police Officer Daniel Ahearn. The collision occurred at approximately 6:30 a.m., which was approximately thirty minutes prior to sunrise. The roads were wet and visibility was poor. Wearing dark clothing, Ms. LoTempio was crossing Hertel Avenue towards Tennyson Avenue at an angle and in an area where there was no crosswalk. A BPD patrol vehicle responding to a call by a civilian for police assistance collided with Ms. LoTempio. Because the call was a non-emergency call, PO Ahearn did not have his lights and sirens on.
As detailed in the SIPU report, the New York State Police conducted an accident reconstruction of the incident. The circumstances surrounding the collision were exacerbated by the fact that PO Ahearn’s marked patrol vehicle had a headlight out on the passenger side – the same side as Ms. LoTempio was walking from when the accident occurred. Moreover, PO Ahearn was alone in his patrol car, and thus required to monitor the Mobile Computer Terminal (“MCT”) in his patrol vehicle while answering the call. The position of the MCT in the patrol vehicle also partially obstructed PO Ahearn’s view out the right side of his windshield, again making it difficult to see Ms. LoTempio. Finally, the ambient lighting and wet weather caused a glare that may have affected both PO Ahearn and Ms. LoTempio.
SIPU urges the Buffalo Police Department to investigate changing the placement of the MCT to help ensure it does not obstruct parts of the driver’s view.
An autopsy performed at the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that Ms. LoTempio died of multiple blunt force injuries. The manner of death was ruled an accident.
PO Ahearn cooperated fully with the investigation. He voluntarily provided a blood sample, which showed neither drugs nor alcohol in his system. He also allowed his personal cell phone to be examined to determine whether he was texting or talking on the phone at the time of the collision; he was not. Statements were taken from PO Ahearn, Buffalo Police officers in the vehicle behind PO Ahearn, medical personnel on the scene, and Ms. LoTempio’s family. Additionally, video surveillance taken immediately before the accident depicts Ms. LoTempio walking across the street as PO Ahearn’s patrol vehicle is approaching.
After an exhaustive investigation, SIPU has concluded that the collision was a tragic accident and that criminal charges are not justified.
“We send our deepest condolences to the family of Ms. LoTempio, whose death was a heartbreaking tragedy,” said Attorney General Underwood. “We undertook a comprehensive investigation into the accident, part of our commitment to providing the public with exhaustive and transparent accounting of all cases we investigate under the executive order.”
The report was produced as part of the Attorney General’s role as the state’s special prosecutor. In July 2015, the Governor signed Executive Order No. 147, appointing the Attorney General as special prosecutor to oversee investigations into incidents where a law enforcement officer causes the death of an unarmed civilian, or where there is a significant question as to whether the civilian was armed and dangerous. In cases in which it is determined that charges are not justified, the Attorney General’s office releases a comprehensive report that details the findings of its investigation, as part of its commitment to transparency.
The Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit is led by Bureau Chief Wanda Perez-Maldonado.