Published: August 17. 2010 1:15AM
District Attorney Daneri clears Erie officer in shooting
By JOHN GUERRIEROjohn.firstname.lastname@example.org
An Erie police officer will return to duty now that Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri cleared him of any wrongdoing in the shooting of a 17-year-old robbery and burglary suspect.
Daneri said that Lt. Steve Goozdich, a 21-year veteran and patrol supervisor with "an exemplary record,'' acted appropriately under the circumstances. The use of extreme force is justified when an officer believes he or others are in danger, Daneri said Monday.
Goozdich used his service revolver to shoot Jose R. Diaz outside an apartment at 255 Crandall St., where police responded to a reported home invasion involving three people late Aug. 10.
Diaz suffered a wound to the lower back, just above the waistline, Daneri said. Diaz is a patient at Hamot Medical Center, where he is in the custody of corrections officers.
Hamot is not releasing information on Diaz's condition at the request of Diaz and his family, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Goozdich had been on paid administrative leave.
Erie Police Chief Steve Franklin said that Goozdich will return to work Wednesday after his regularly scheduled days off.
Goozdich and other officers believed that Diaz had a gun in his right hand, but Daneri wouldn't comment whether the suspect had a gun.
Diaz was shot after he came out a ground-level window, refused police orders to get on the ground, struggled with Goozdich, broke free and ran, Daneri said.
Goozdich and other officers shouted numerous times for the suspect to stop and surrender, he said.
Diaz turned toward the officers and raised his right arm in the air, and Goozdich and the other officers believed they were going to be fired upon, Daneri said.
Another officer behind Goozdich was preparing to use his service revolver, too, Daneri said.
Goozdich fired at the suspect, who continued to run a short way until police found him on his knees, Daneri said. He surrendered and fell to his stomach, the district attorney said.
Police saw that Diaz had been shot while they were advising him of his arrest, Daneri said.
Diaz admitted then to police that he was the person who came out the window, Daneri said.
The other officers and an individual not connected to law enforcement corroborated Goozdich's version of events, Daneri said.
Goozdich could not be reached for comment.
The officers responded to the apartment at 11:30 p.m., and had been told that Diaz and two other people inside the house were masked and had guns, Daneri said.
Police told them numerous times to come out of the house and surrender, he said. Goozdich, the other officer who had been prepared to use his revolver and the independent eyewitness all believed that Diaz had a gun when he came out the window, Daneri said.
Daneri assigned Chief Erie County Detective Larry Dombrowski to investigate.
Diaz's parents, meanwhile, met Monday with Daneri to inquire about visiting their son in the hospital. Hamot has said that patients in the custody of corrections officers are not allowed visitors.
Daneri said he told the parents that they must contact Erie County Prison Warden James Veshecco to see if it's possible to make arrangements to see their son.
Family members have protested outside of Hamot about being refused access, and they have questioned police statements about the shooting.
JOHN GUERRIERO can be reached at 870-1690 or by e-mail.