Falls officer depicted as an abuser of his power
Sex/drug conviction could carry life term
When he was a student at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, Ryan G. Warme took third place in the 189- pound division of the state high school wrestling championships and was a standout defensive lineman for the football team.
It was just the kind of muscle the Niagara Falls Police Department was seeking in its fight against the criminal element on the streets.
But in the three years since he followed his father onto the city police force, Warme instead wielded his power against innocent women and trafficked in cocaine, police and prosecutors say.
The 27-year-old Grand Island native used his badge to intimidate at least two women, raping them and forcing one to perform sex acts, and sometimes bought and used cocaine while in uniform, according to authorities.
Because the case involves serious civil rights violations, Warme could spend the rest of his life behind bars, a federal prosecutor said in court Wednesday, mentioning that within the statute, there even is a provision for the death penalty.
Drugs were at the center of Warme’s fall from grace, said Lt. Kelly J. Rizzo, the Falls police detective who led the investigation against his fellow officer.
“Drugs are blind,” Rizzo said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference in Niagara Falls. “It doesn’t matter what you do for a career. It will take hold of you, and it will ruin your life.”
Warme was using cocaine on the job, police said.
Narcotics Capt. Morris J. Shamrock told reporters that Warme was even warning drug dealers about suspects whom officers were pursuing in narcotics cases.
“He endangered people on this job, and this has been verified in the past few months,” Shamrock said.
Warme might have had an idea that his arrest was coming, Rizzo said, but he labeled any arrest of a fellow officer “shocking.”
“The mood is somber,” he said of the Falls police force.
Warme was arrested Tuesday night by Falls police and FBI agents. He was taken off the street in August; his weapon was taken away in October. He has been on paid administrative leave from the department since Nov. 3.
Falls police officials said the investigation began after one of the two women Warme is alleged to have attacked contacted city police. Rizzo then began collecting evidence.
The FBI became involved when Falls investigators realized that civil rights violations might have taken place.
Warme appeared Wednesday afternoon in U. S. District Court in Buffalo before Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott. He pleaded not guilty during a proceeding that lasted about 10 minutes.
The tall, broad-shouldered Warme wore jeans, a tan sweater and a day-old beard. He was represented by attorney Joel L. Daniels.
Warme’s father, Gordon, a retired Falls police captain, watched the proceedings from the back of the courtroom. He declined to comment afterward. Warme’s younger brother, Scott, also is a police officer in Niagara Falls.
Warme has been accused of violating the civil rights of two women, the most serious of the charges against him.
He also faces gun and drug-conspiracy charges, which bring the potential of separate maximum penalties of 25 and 20 years, respectively.
Former Buffalo police Narcotics Detective Sylvestre Acosta was sentenced to a 45-year prison term in 2005 for committing crimes while carrying a gun. A bid to the U. S. Supreme Court last year to challenge the sentence was turned down.
Wednesday, Assistant U. S. Attorney Anthony M. Bruce told the judge that prosecutors consider Warme a threat to the community and to witnesses.
Warme, who is being held in the Erie County Holding Center, is to appear in court for a detention hearing Dec. 15.
According to the criminal complaint, Warme:
• Forced a woman to perform oral sex on him while he was on duty Sept. 24, 2007. It happened after he arrived at her apartment when she called police to file a complaint against an ex-boyfriend. Warme kept one hand on his gun during the attack.
• Raped two women in 2006, including an October incident in which he entered the woman’s apartment while she was sleeping. After that attack, she told investigators, she saw him walk toward a marked police car.
• Threatened one of the women after an attack, saying that if she ever told anyone about what happened, he would take her to the nearby Tuscarora Indian Reservation and shoot her.
Investigators, who said they interviewed 40 to 50 witnesses, believe that Warme also bought and sold cocaine. They say he bought the drug about five times while in uniform.
At one point, Warme was buying cocaine “two to five times a week,” U. S. Attorney Terrance P. Flynn said.
But Warme was more of a casual drug user than a dealer and did not make money off the cocaine he sold, authorities said. The person from whom Warme bought cocaine is in prison, according to authorities, who did not identify the person.
Authorities said Warme had been acquainted with one of the women prior to the alleged attack and had a relationship that included consensual sex with the other woman over a period of several months in 2006.
Warme graduated from St. Joe’s in 1999 and from Western New England College in 2003 with a degree in management.
He was hired as a Falls police officer in August 2005. At the academy, he won an award for physical fitness.
He was commissionned last year as a second lieutenant working in the security forces in the 914th Airlift Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
Authorities did not release a photograph of Warme because the investigation is continuing. They are asking anyone with information that might help in the investigation to contact Rizzo at 286-4592.
Niagara County District Attorney Michael J. Violante called Wednesday’s revelations a sad day for the people of Niagara Falls. “It’s something that has to be done to preserve the integrity of the Niagara Falls Police Department,” he said. “I hope you understand that these allegations are very serious.”
Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John R. Chella said he expects further charges to be filed against Warme. He called Warme’s actions those of one individual, not the 141 officers in the department.
“The results you see today reinforce my belief that the Niagara Falls Police Department is capable of investigating its own,” Chella said, “and Western New York can rest assured that any member of law enforcement that does not act professionally will be dealt with.”