BUFFALO, N.Y. — A New York state trooper was charged with manslaughter Monday for shooting an unarmed motorist to death after he refused to get out of his car following a high-speed chase.
Trooper Anthony Nigro pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree manslaughter at an arraignment in Buffalo, where the killing took place last year, and was released without bail. The charges in the death of James Huber, 38, are a rare example of a criminal case being brought against an officer by New York’s attorney general, who has the authority to investigate the lethal use of force by law enforcement.
The president of the union that represents Nigro defended him, saying the slaying was justified.
The trooper’s body camera video captured the fatal encounter on Feb. 12, 2022.
Troopers first spotted Huber, a resident of North East, Pennsylvania, speeding on Interstate 90 near Buffalo and pursued him at speeds that topped 100 mph.
The pursuing officers broke off the chase after Huber’s vehicle exited the highway, but Nigro caught up to Huber on a street in downtown Buffalo and blocked his path with his cruiser.
Body camera footage released by the state attorney general’s office shows Nigro, a nearly 16-year veteran of the state police, holding his gun in front of him as he approaches the car. He orders Huber to get out, cursing at him. Huber turns away from the trooper and says, “Go away,” and then “never,” and “nope” as the trooper continues to yell at him to get out of the car, his gun just inches from the motorist’s head.
Huber puts his hand on the car’s shifter, as if to put it in gear. The trooper yanks on the hood of Huber’s sweatshirt, then fires two shots and falls to the ground as the car lurches backward, briefly dragging him.
The car moved in reverse out of camera range, crashed and landed on its side on a parking ramp.
The body camera footage shows Nigro running to the car. He radios, “Driver’s been hit. I’m fine.”
Huber died of gunshot wounds at the scene. His death was investigated by Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, whose office brought the charges.
New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association President Charles Murphy said in a statement that Nigro should not have faced criminal charges. He said Huber’s dangerous driving “threatened the safety of innocent motorists.”
“Our understanding and review of the facts in this case confirm that, while the outcome was tragic, Trooper Nigro’s actions were in accordance with his training and the law, and that he was justified in his use of force,” Murphy said.
The state police said in a statement that the department has cooperated with the attorney general’s investigation and will continue to do so.
Cary Arnold, a Pennsylvania woman who has a daughter with Huber, told the Buffalo News that Huber might have been heading for a rally in support of Canadian truckers protesting Covid-19 vaccine mandates at the time of the shooting.