LOCKPORT — A Falls man, shot and critically wounded by a Falls police officer after he stabbed another officer in the back, will now spend the next 16 years in prison.
Niagara County Court Judge John Ottaviano handed down the sentence to Reginald Barnes, 29, for his guilty plea to one count of attempted aggravated assault on a police officer, stemming from an incident that took place on June 3, 2022. The plea, part of a deal with prosecutors, saw Barnes admit guilt to the highest charge he faced in a six-count indictment.
Barnes could have received a maximum possible prison term of 20 years, but Ottaviano had promised that he would commit to a sentence of no more 16 years. The plea and sentence cover all of the charges in the indictment against Barnes, as well as his admission to a violation of probation in a related case.
None of the Falls police officers who were involved in the incident were present in court Thursday for Barnes’ sentencing. Niagara County District Attorney Brian Seaman said all of the officers had “communicated their thoughts” on Barnes’ sentence to Niagara County probation officers, who prepared a pre-sentence report for Ottaviano.
“We don’t often talk about how something like this effects police officers,” Seaman said after the sentencing. “Although a Kevlar vest can protect from physical injury, it doesn’t protect from the emotional and psychological effect of being attacked with a weapon, and having to use your own service weapon to protect yourself and fellow officers. No police officer wants to be put in a situation like that. This event had a profound impact on several young police officers that they will carry with them throughout their careers and lives.”
Barnes admitted that he “attempted to cause serious physical injury” to Falls Police Officer Dominic Sense during a confrontation in the drive-thru lane of a Niagara Falls Boulevard pharmacy.
Falls Police patrol officers had been dispatched, just after 5 p.m. on June 3, to a domestic incident in the area of 84th Street and Frontier Avenue. A female victim told 911 operators that her abuser, later identified as Barnes, who was then serving a probation sentence for his conviction on a domestic violence-related charge, and was the subject of an order of protection, had been in the vicinity of her home.
Neighbors of the victim said they chased Barnes from the area of the victim’s apartment and then flagged down Falls police officers in the vicinity of 81st Street and Niagara Falls Boulevard. Those officers then encountered Barnes in the nearby drive-thru lane.
When the officers learned that Barnes had violated the victim’s order of protection, they attempted to take him into custody.
In video, recorded on Sense’s body worn camera, Officer Gregory Paul is seen approaching Barnes, who is standing next to a police cruiser. Paul places his left hand on Barnes’ left arm in an attempt to handcuff him, but Barnes jerks his arm away and begins to pull away as the officer tries to control him by grabbing his shirt.
The video shows Barnes fall to the ground and Paul attempts to bring him to his feet. Barnes is able to escape from Paul’s grasp and the video shows that Senese has pulled out his Taser and is pointing it in Barnes’ direction.
Barnes stumbles and almost falls and begins to run from the officers. Senese fires his Taser, but it appears to have no effect.
The video shows that Barnes stops running away from the officers, turns and begins to walk toward Senese with his left hand on his left pants pocket. While Senese continues to hold his Taser, Barnes pulls a knife from his pocket and runs directly at Senese.
As he reaches the officer, the video shows Barnes thrusting the knife over Senese’s head. Police say Barnes then stabbed Senese in the back.
The Taser flies out of Senese’s hand and he puts that hand in Barnes’ face to push him away. As Senese retreats from Barnes, and the the video image widens out, Paul can be seen with his police issued handgun out of its holster and pointed toward the ground.
Lt. Joesph Scibilia, who was also on the scene, can also be observed on the video with his handgun drawn and pointed in the direction of Barnes.
The body camera video shows Barnes turning from Senese and, still holding the knife, charging toward Paul. Paul levels his handgun and fires directly at Barnes.
The video shows Barnes put his hands up as he is hit by the gunfire and he falls face forward on a patch of grass. Barnes’ body then rolls to a stop at Paul’s feet.
Police performed emergency first aid on Barnes before he was taken ECMC. He was treated for the gunshot wound to the chest, which left him critically wounded.
He is now recovering from that wound.
Senese, who suffered what police said were minor injuries to his back and arm, was treated and released from Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. Falls Police Superintendent John Faso said the knife attack was blunted by Senese’s ballistic vest.
A Niagara County grand jury found both Paul and Scibilia were justified in using deadly physical force to stop the attack. All the officers involved in the incident returned to duty.
“But for the actions of a concerned citizen and Niagara Falls Police officers, this incident could have ended much differently,” Seaman said at the time of Barnes’ plea. “The defendant was approaching the back yard of a person for whom an order of protection had previously been issued, and he was armed with a knife. When police attempted to place him under arrest for violating the order of protection, the defendant stabbed an officer in the back, then lunged at another officer.”
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