The Tactical Prosecution Unit is a specialized bureau dedicated to prosecuting gun-related crimes in Erie County. It is comprised of five experienced Assistant District Attorneys who have a proven record of trial skills. Many of the cases involving victims of gun violence involve reluctant witnesses. The seasoned prosecutors in the TPU, led by Chief Paul C. Parisi, have specialized training in handling these types of cases and securing testimonial evidence. The Unit collaborates daily with the Homicide Squad of the Buffalo Police Department as well as investigating officers from suburban agencies and the Sheriff’s Office. The Unit also works closely with Federal law enforcement agencies and the Erie County Central Police Services Firearms Laboratory.
The TPU also works aggressively to monitor and respond to escalating gang violence. Each member of the Unit tracks the activity of an assigned gang. Working with the Erie Crime Analysis Center and law enforcement, prosecutors attempt to detect and prevent gun violence before it occurs by identifying on-going feuds and developing strategic leads to interrupt the violence. If gun violence does occur, the assigned prosecutor will meet victims at the hospital or consult with other known gang members to identify and disrupt the feuding gangs.
All of the members of the Unit are funded by a New York State grant program known as G.I.V.E. (Gun Involved Violence Elimination). The grant requires that the prosecutors only work on gun-related crimes and coordinate with the other G.I.V.E. partners that include the Buffalo Police Department, Erie County Sheriff’s Office, Erie County Probation, New York State Parole, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Division of Criminal Justice Services oversees the grant and regularly inspects the progress of the Unit as well as the statistics related to gun violence in Erie County.
In addition to their caseload, members of the Unit serve as the “on-call prosecutor” on a rotating basis. When they are “on-call,” the Assistant District Attorney from the Unit is available 24/7 on the Bureau’s cellphone. All law enforcement agencies in Erie County can request assistance with urgent legal issues or with obtaining search warrants. The Assistant District Attorney may also assist at the crime scene with investigation at the earliest stages.
Paul C. Parisi, Chief Tactical Prosecution Unit, is a graduate of SUNY Geneseo and the SUNY Buffalo Law School. He began his career as an Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County where he prosecuted cases involving juvenile offenders in both Family and Supreme Courts, together with general felonies and vehicular homicides. In 2009, he returned to Erie County to continue his career as a prosecutor of violent felonies. Throughout his career, he has prosecuted many cases like Art Swain, Jr., the “Zip-Tie Bandit”, who conducted a series of gun point robberies of local businesses in 2010, Errol Fowler-Graham, who forcibly kidnapped two young females to facilitate a robbery, Todd Heatley, who killed a young man at a Halloween party, Sean Austin and Maurice Howie, who perpetrated numerous gun point robberies of cab drivers and pizza delivery drivers culminating in the murder of a cab driver in March of 2013. Mr. Parisi has been a prosecutor for more than nine years and has lectured for the New York Prosecutor’s Training Institute, the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services and trained police agencies throughout New York State.