WHEATFIELD, NY – A Niagara Falls police officer now faces a felony assault charge in an alleged road rage incident from earlier this month. The officer is accused of tailing a man while off-duty and eventually striking him with a motorcycle helmet.
The officer, identified as James Conte of Niagara Falls, has more than 20 years of experience on the force. He’s now staring at a felony assault charge, with the intent to cause physical injury with a weapon. The accusation stems from an alleged road rage incident near the 190 in Wheatfield.
Conte, 48, is accused of assaulting a 46-year-old man from the city. In a police report obtained by 2 On Your Side the alleged victim tells police what he said happened.
On the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 5, the alleged victim, driving in his vehicle, was heading south on the 190 near Porter Road. Then, a motorcycle comes from behind him. The incident report says, “the motorcycle rider came up along side me and gave me and the car in front of me the middle finger.”
The vehicles then merged onto LaSalle Expressway. Conte allegedly follows the complainant at the end of the expressway near the intersection of Williams and River Roads. That’s when the driver says he pulled into a parking lot.
“The motorcycle followed me. He approached me and told me to get out of the car,” he told police.
“There was a verbal dispute following the incident on the road,” said Niagara County undersheriff Michael Filicetti, “Following the verbal dispute, our suspect took his helmet and struck the victim in the head and knocked him to the ground.”
Police say they don’t know what might have set the officer off. Three witnesses were at the scene.
“The witnesses essentially have told us what the victim told us. He was struck by a helmet and kicked after he was on the ground,” Filicetti said.
The alleged victim was taken to a hospital and is okay. According to police, the officer left the scene on his motorcycle.
REPORTER: What has the officer said throughout this case? Has he admitted to it? Is he sorry about it?
FILICETTI: “I can’t comment on that”
Police say they’re not aware of any video of the incident. 2 On Your Side has learned that Conte is a former president of the Niagara Falls police union. He’s suspended with pay. Niagara Falls police are conducting an internal investigation.
Investigators say they were eventually able to speak to Conte after the incident. Conte was arraigned last week. He pleaded not guilty and was released. He’s due back in court next month.