Buffalo Police Officer Arrested, Charged With Civil Rights Violations
CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051
BUFFALO, N.Y.-U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. announced today that Robert Eloff Jr., 40, of Buffalo, NY, was charged by criminal complaint with two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and one count of conspiracy to deprive an individual of rights under color of law. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“This area is extremely fortunate to have brave and selfless women and men serving as police officers whose sworn duty is to protect and serve, said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “As has been said many times, the vast majority of our police discharge their responsibilities with the highest standards of professionalism and honor. But when an officer misuses his position and engages in unjustified violence – this Office will investigate and bring charges as appropriate.”
"When government officials act under color of law, it is imperative that their actions are not willfully unreasonable and in violation of Constitutionally granted rights, said Brian P. Boetig, Special Agent in Charge of the Buffalo Office of the FBI. “Incidents of unlawful actions by law enforcement officers reduce trust and confidence in the entire criminal justice system and make it more difficult for noble and honorable officers to beget the community's support to enhance public safety and the overall quality of life."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Guerra, who is handling the case, stated that the defendant is charged in connection with two separate incidents at Molly’s Pub in Buffalo in 2014.
According to the complaint, in the early morning hours of February 15, 2014, Eloff used his position as a police officer to strike and kick a victim identified as R.D. on his head and face. The attack happened while the victim was handcuffed behind his back and physically compliant.
The incident happened after R.D., who was under 21, was pushed out of the bar by a bouncer for using false identification. Once outside the bar, the victim was approached by the defendant who was wearing a shirt that said “POLICE,” a gun and handcuffs. According to the complaint, Eloff handcuffed R.D. behind his back and took him to the side of the bar along with another police officer. The complaint further states that after the victim did not answer questions from the officers, the defendant became angry and punched the victim in the right eye. After the victim fell to the ground, Eloff then put his knee on R.D.’s head. The victim was also kicked in the head. R.D. was subsequently arrested and taken to the Erie County Holding Center.
According to the complaint, a witness (Witness 1) who was with the victim at Molly’s Pub, told investigators that during the assault, the victim did not oppose Eloff and was screaming “stop.” According to Witness 1, a second witness, identified as Witness 2, recorded the incident on his cellphone. But, according to the complaint, another officer made Witness 2 delete the video from his phone. Witness 2 did take two photographs of the incident.
As for the second incident, in the early morning hours of May 11, 2014, William Sager was pushed down a flight of stairs at Molly’s Pub by Jeffrey Basil. Sager later died of his injuries and Basil was convicted in state court of murder. At the time Sager was pushed by Basil, Eloff was in Molly’s Pub working security for the bar.
According to the complaint, a victim identified as D.H. was with William Sager the night he was pushed down the stairs. The complaint states that D.H saw people carry Sager outside after he fell down the stairs. When the victim went outside, Sager was propped up, sitting the on the ground. As he was asking officers what happened, Eloff grabbed D.H. and told him to get out of there. The victim then walked away and called 911. When other officers arrived, the victim asked for Eloff’s name and badge number at which point he was arrested and handcuffed by Eloff and seated next to Sager. D.H. was later taken from the scene by other officers. According to the complaint, Eloff told officers that D.H. had physically interfered with Eloff and others inside the bar. A later review of surveillance video from Molly’s Pub revealed that the victim never confronted or was physical with Eloff in the bar. According to the complaint, Eloff caused D.H. to be arrested for trespassing, a crime he never committed and conspired to do so.
The criminal complaint is the culmination of an investigation by Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Daniel Derenda.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.