In a 25-year career, Scott Patronik’s tech skills played key role on WNY’s biggest cases | Crime News

The Lackawanna Six. The Bike Path Killer. Flight 3407. The November storm. Covid-19.

They are some of the most notorious and historic events of the past 20 years. And Scott Patronik has played a part in helping to handle all of them.

Patronik was the Erie County Sheriff’s Office’s point man for managing major incidents and the agency’s go-to guy for anything related to tech and computers. On Friday, he put a punctuation mark on his story when he capped a storied 24-year career with the Sheriff’s Office as he retired from the agency.

“There are people who are very well versed in a lot of different aspects of the job and Scott was always one of those guys,” said Sheriff John Garcia. During his time as a Buffalo police homicide detective, Garcia often interacted with Patronik. “If he didn’t have the information, he had the right person at his fingertips. He’s a great networker and that goes to his character and how genuine of a human being he is.”

Patronik was the chief of special services – a division that until recently was called special operations – which meant he oversaw an array of units, including SWAT, crisis negotiation, the bomb squad, the underwater recovery team, aviation, snowmobile and firearms training.

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He was in charge of coordinating law enforcement response to major events, from crime scenes and search parties to Bills games, snowstorms, the worst plane crash in the region’s history and eventually a pandemic.

But he’s best known for his tech skills, which he honed as technology became an increasingly critical component of law enforcement and criminal investigations.

“I’ve always had an interest in math and technology,” Patronik said in an interview last week at the sheriff’s firearms training facility in Alden. “I’m always trying to build things out of electrical components. People will see my basement and ask: ‘Why do you have an oscilloscope?’ ”

“He’s a nerd with a badge and a gun,” said DJ Granville, who as chief of narcotics with the Sheriff’s Office worked alongside Patronik and who spoke highly of Patronik’s tech skills – and people skills. “He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”

Patronik, 55, grew up in Orchard Park and went to Orchard Park High School. He majored in physics at SUNY Buffalo State and earned a master’s degree in computer science from James Madison University in Virginia. He was working at Fisher-Price in East Aurora when a friend asked to take the state police exam with him. On a whim, he said yes and ended up scoring 100.

Patronik became a state trooper in 1992, but when his friend Pat Gallivan was elected sheriff, Gallivan urged Patronik to come to the Sheriff’s Office to be his chief of technology.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States represented a turning point in his career.

“It was almost a 180-degree change,” he said. “That had the biggest impact on my career.”

He was in charge of security at the Bills stadium, which up until then was mostly about traffic control and pedestrian safety. Deputies patrolled outside the stadium.

But suddenly, the games were seen as a potential terrorism target. At the first home game after the attacks, Patronik said he was among the first group of deputies to work inside the stadium. Now, it’s standard operating procedure for a large number of deputies and reserve deputies to be scattered throughout Highmark Stadium at each game.

In the months after, worries about future terror attacks led to the investigation of a group of Yemeni immigrants living in Lackawanna who had attended an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Working on a task force with other law enforcement agencies, Patronik said he was with a group assigned to surveillance and eventually the takedown of one of the suspects.

At that time, monitoring email correspondence was a key part of the investigation, Patronik said. Since then, surveillance of cellphone calls and social media have become important, he said.

One of the biggest cases Patronik was involved in was the hunt for the Bike Path Killer, a serial rapist and killer who had seemed to disappear for more than a decade. But on Sept. 29, 2006, a Clarence mother of four went missing while jogging on the Clarence Bike Path. Joan Diver’s body was found two days later. DNA tests would eventually show she was a victim of the Bike Path Killer.

A task force made up of investigators with the Sheriff’s Office, state police, Amherst police and Buffalo police was formed to try to find the killer. Patronik headed the Sheriff’s Office members and he reflected on how critical it was for all of the agencies to work together to solve the decadeslong case.

“Every single day that passed, I thought: ‘This has to be solved,'” he said.

He recounted how the pieces of the puzzle came together. Buffalo police brought to the task force’s makeshift headquarters stacks of old rape cases, both solved and unsolved. They started looking at a series of rapes that had taken place in Delaware Park many years earlier. They saw a Buffalo man, Anthony Capozzi, was convicted and sentenced to prison but they saw there were some troubling issues with the case. The crimes all seemed to be well planned and fit a pattern. Capozzi had serious mental health issues and didn’t seem to fit.

The investigation soon led to the arrest of Altemio Sanchez and the exoneration of Capozzi.

More recently, Patronik saw himself coordinating Erie County’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. That included everything from the early days of contact tracing, storing and distributing masks and other PPE and security for the quarantine hotel for people who didn’t have a place where they could self-isolate to eventually setting up the county’s sites for testing and vaccines .

Patron is not retiring. He is starting a new job as a cybersecurity advisory with the Department of Homeland Security in its new Cyber ​​Infrastructure Security Agency. His job will entail helping organizations prevent cyberattacks.

Looking back on his almost quarter century with the Sheriff’s Office, he said he is thankful to his family, in particular his wife, daughter and son, for their support during those years and proud to have worked with the fellow deputies that he believes the citizens of Erie County should feel lucky are serving and protecting them.

He reflected on the many crises and disasters he saw.

“Some of these events were so tragic, but when you’re in the midst of it, we were all focused on the job,” he said. “You’re just slicing it up into smaller tasks. Like with Covid, we had to find pads for the nurses to stand on because the floor was concrete. You’re not looking at the big picture then that thousands of people are going to get Covid. “

Then later, when talking about it with other responders who went through it, he said, “That’s when it hits you – what a large, historic event that you all went through together.”

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