Eighteen-year-old Andre Fuller pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning to charges that he tried to murder a Buffalo Police officer who pursued him after spotting a robbery in progress in June.
Fuller later made a statement that “he wished he’d killed the officers,” prosecutor Ashley Morgan said during Fuller’s arraignment in Erie County Court.
Instead, thanks to the safety lock on Fuller’s .45 caliber handgun, Officer Anthony Fanara went home safely that night. Fuller had jammed a gun into Fanara’s chest and pulled the trigger twice when the officer tackled him during a chase near Schiller Park, prosecutors allege.
“It was a hand-to-hand, life-and-death struggle,” Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda told reporters after the court proceeding.
“All too often we hear about the negatives,” Derenda said. “We are just glad to see the officers were unhurt.”
Derenda also expressed a continuing concern of his – that violent criminals who are arrested with weapons continue to make bail and get back out on the streets within days or weeks.
“We have recovered more than 500 guns so far this year,” Derenda said. “That’s way up. But so are shootings. It is a very dangerous climate for our officers right now.”
Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. said the defendant’s young age will not influence how he is prosecuted.
“Yes, he’s 18 years old, but we also could have had a dead officer,” Flaherty said. He noted that while Fuller’s attorney pointed out in court that the defendant must have known the safety was on the weapon, it did not explain why Fuller allegedly tried to fire it twice.
Fuller is charged with attempted murder of a police officer, attempted robbery and criminal possession of a weapon. He is facing a maximum sentence of 40 years to life in prison.
Judge Thomas P. Franczyk ordered him held without bail following the arraignment.
The confrontation between Fuller and Fanara began at about 11:15 p.m. June 15 at Doat Street and Stewart Avenue when Strike Force officers spotted a robbery in progress. Fanara and Officers Joseph Acquino and Bradford Pitts began a foot chase, with Fanara in the lead. They could see a gun in the suspect’s right hand.
Fanara tackled Fuller in the backyard of the suspect’s home at 92 Stewart, and when the gun failed to fire, the other officers were able to knock it out of Fuller’s hand. Fuller was handcuffed and the weapon was recovered.
Flaherty said ATF tests on the weapon are not complete, so they don’t know where it came from, whether it was stolen or if it has been used in other crimes.
Fanara, who is 29, joined the Buffalo Police Department in January 2012. The Italian-American Police Association scheduled a recognition dinner for him and the other two officers for Wednesday night in gratitude for their continuing efforts to remove illegal weapons from the community.