The New York State Sheriffs' Institute Newsroom


Albany – Deputy Joe Tortorella of the Niagara CountySheriff’s Office has been selected as the 2016 New York State Sheriffs’ Association Institute’s Deputy of the Year. He was nominated for this award by Sheriff James Voutour.

He is the 46th recipient of this statewide honor. This coveted award established in 1977, is given annually to a deputy sheriff who has displayed outstanding courage and heroism in the line of duty.

On April 17th,  2015, a little after noon, Niagara County Sheriff’s 911 Center received a 911 hang-up phone call from a residence in the Town of Wheatfield.  The emergency dispatcher made repeated calls to the residence without a response.  So Deputy Joe Tortorella was dispatched to the address.

Deputy Tortorella arrived at the residence and made several attempts to make contact at the front door.  Finally a male partially opened the door. Deputy Tortorella had a brief conversation with the individual, who was later identified as Duane Bores.  Deputy Tortorella felt Bores was acting in an erratic manner. But Bores did agree to step out and talk with the deputy, but first he needed to get dressed.  As Bores closed the door Deputy Tortella heard what he believed to be a cry for help.  Unsure of the nature of the situation Deputy Tortorella called for back up.

As Deputy Tortella waited for Bores to return he had feeling something wasn’t right and moved away from the front porch to the driveway.  He then observed Bores coming from the rear of the house. Deputy Tortella tried to engage Bores in conversation. The Deputy also observed what appeared to be blood on Bores hands and clothing.

Deputy Tortella ordered Bores to his knees.  At this point Bores reached behind him.  Deputy Tortella observed that Bores had a handgun in his rear waistband.  The Deputy repeatedly ordered Bores to his knees.

Bores stood and reached for his handgun.  Deputy Tortorella drew his service revolver and began firing, hitting Bores three times while retreating to a position of cover.  As Deputy Tortorella found cover behind a tree in the front yard, Bores kept firing at him. One bullet struck Tortorella  on the lower left front of his bullet proof vest.  Positioned behind the tree Deputy Tortorella and Bores, who had positioned himself behind the patrol car, exchanged gunfire.

Next to Bore’s residence is an elementary school. Deputy Tortorella somehow, in the middle of this gun battle, called the 911 center and ordered that the school be placed in lockdown. 

Also during the gun battle the 911 center received a call from within the residence from one Bore’s parents. They advised dispatchers that their son had shot both of them and they were unable to get out of the residence.  They also said they both lost a great deal of blood and pleaded for help.

Bores retreated to the residence as back up patrol units flooded the area.  Based on the information from the 911 center it was decided that deputies needed to enter the residence, which they did with the appropriate equipment.  Upon entry they found the parents with shotgun wounds to the face and neck. Deputies administered first aid until EMT units arrived. Duane Bores was found dead from a self-inflicted wound to the head.

Both parents were airlifted to a nearby trauma center with serious injuries. Both are still alive today thanks to Deputy Joe Tortorella.

As a side note – the entire gun battle was captured on a surveillance video from the residence. With in one week of the incident, the Niagara County District Attorney deemed the shooting as justifiable and opted no to send it to a grand jury.

Photo caption – Deputy Joe Tortorella addresses the Awards Banquet attendees upon receiving the 2016 Deputy of the Year Award. Looking on from left to right: Sheriff Ron Spike, Chair of the Awards Committee, Sheriff James Voutour, who nominated Deputy Tortorella for the award and Sheriff Gary Maha, Chairman of the Sheriffs’