Remembering Buffalo Police Officer Craig Lehner

Saturday marks one-year of Buffalo Police tragedy

Mike Baggerman
October 12, 2018 - 3:00 am

Memorial for Buffalo Police Lieutenant Craig Lehner at Broderick Park. October 11, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – Saturday marks one year since the death of Buffalo Police Officer Craig Lehner.

Lehner, 34, participated in a training mission for the department’s underwater rescue team on October 13, 2017 when his tether was caught on a boulder and subsequently broke free. He lost his breathing device in the process. Lehner did not surface from the water and went missing for the next three days.

Lehner’s body was recovered at 1:25 p.m. on October 17, 2017. He was 160 feet offshore in the Niagara River, between 2,000 to 3,000 feet north of the International Railway Bridge.

READ: OCTOBER 14, 2017 | OFFICER LEHNER FOUND

He was a nine-year veteran of the Buffalo Police Department and joined the underwater rescue team that April.

Funeral services for Officer Lehner were held later that month, with emotional tributes from loved ones, including Tommy Champion, who was Lehner’s partner with the Buffalo Police Department.

READ: OCTOBER 25, 2017 | OFFICER LEHNER’S FUNERAL

Lehner received a posthumous promotion to lieutenant from Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and was honored in a variety of other ways, including a planned renaming of the K-9 training park on Louisiana Street.

Remembering Shield

Shield was Lehner’s K-9 partner. The dog showed signs of stress because of his separation from anxiety and was relieved of that stress in the days and weeks following Lehner’s death through training, play, and socialization with familiar faces.

READ MORE: OCTOBER 19, 2017 | What’s next for Shield?

The K-9 underwent a certification process, which he ultimately passed. After being qualified, Shield partnered with a new owner: Matthew Richards.

Ongoing Lawsuit

Buffalo Police are in the midst of wrongful death litigation with the Lehner family. Police officials did not speak with WBEN about the lawsuit and we were unable to coordinate an interview with anyone from Buffalo Police on the Lehner topic.

READ: JANUARY 26, 2018 | LEGAL FILINGS BEGIN AGAINST BUFFALO POLICE

Legal filings began in January 2018. Donna Wilson, Lehner’s sister, filed a notice of claim against the City of Buffalo the following month.

A lawsuit needs to be filed by January 2021. Information about the damages sought by the Lehner family from the Buffalo Police Department are not available.

Changes to BPD since

Buffalo Police was tagged with several violations by New York State’s Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH). PESH found that the department did not have proper records kept and that the department did not properly assess the various aspects of the training dive that day.

READ MORE: OCTOBER 7, 2018 | DIVING RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BPD

PESH also discovered that the divers were not equipped with reserve air tanks. Buffalo Police have 60 days from October 7 to fix their deficiencies.

A vigil will be held in Officer Lehner's memory from 6-8 p.m. at Broderick Park on Wednesday, October 17.

 

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