BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A driver who engaged Buffalo police in a lengthy gunfight, striking and injuring three officers during a haphazard chase that spanned the city, pleaded not guilty Thursday to attempted murder.
Kente Bell, 28, was arraigned from his hospital room, where he is recovering from several gunshot wounds sustained during Tuesday’s chase and a final hail of gunfire as it ended in front of a police station at a Buffalo intersection.
Bell was shot in his neck, arm, leg and hand and underwent surgery at Erie County Medical Center, where he appeared before a judge after regaining consciousness, said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, who offered dramatic new details of the events.
“You have a high-speed chase… you’ve got a guy firing out the driver’s side window. You’ve got blockades, you’ve got speed on highways, a girl jumping out of the car,” he said at a news conference.
Bell is accused of fleeing two police officers who approached his parked vehicle after noticing its tinted windows around 6 p.m. Tuesday, Flynn said. He cooperated at first but did not get out of the car because he was partially paralyzed in a 2012 shooting and uses medical equipment to walk, the prosecutor said.
When it appeared there was an issue with his registration, Bell drove off. Armed with an illegal handgun with an extended magazine of ammunition, he fired on police as they pursued him through city neighborhoods and on highways for more than 20 minutes, Flynn said.
Early in the chase, before shots were fired, the passenger exited the moving vehicle.
“He was making a turn and had slowed down at some point. She opened the front passenger door and jumped out of the car while it was moving and ended up rolling on the ground and hit up against a pole of some kind,” he said, “like right out of a movie.”
“She was obviously freaking out probably, to say the least, and wanted to have nothing to do with this,” Flynn said.
In the minutes that followed, Bell drove through a police barricade, entered and exited highways and drove wildly through several Buffalo neighborhoods, briefly entering the suburb of Cheektowaga, before turning back toward Buffalo with police officers radioing his route to each other and warning of the danger.
“They’re still shooting. Multiple officers hit!” an officer is heard shouting in a transmission captured by Broadcastify.com.
Three police officers were struck in separate vehicles. All are recovering.
By the time it was over, nine police vehicles were damaged by gunfire, Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.
Investigators have yet to determine how many shots were fired by Bell, or how many officers fired their weapons, Flynn said.
Bell is due to appear before a county judge at the hospital Friday for an alleged probation violation related to a 2020 illegal firearms charge in the town of Amherst. While on probation, he was prohibited from carrying a weapon.
The attorney who represented Bell at Thursday’s arraignment did not return a call seeking comment on his behalf.