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Buffalo homicide investigators say a Woltz Avenue mother was shot in front of her 2-month-old daughter and 1 1/2 -year-old son Monday night.

Nicole Jones, 27, remained in critical condition today with a gunshot wound to the head, according to Capt. Joseph Riga, chief of the Homicide Bureau.

The shooting took place at about 8 p.m. in the woman's apartment in the first block of Woltz.

When Ferry-Fillmore District police arrived at the scene, they found the young children and a rifle lying near the mother. The victim underwent surgery in Erie County Medical Center late Monday.

Homicide Bureau Detectives Andres Ortiz and Mark Krawczyk were continuing an investigation into the shooting, for which a motive remains undetermined.

"We think she was shot by a male acquaintance, and we are trying to locate that person," Riga said.

Man grabs bartender, flees
with cash from register

A man jumped behind the serving counter of a Genesee Street bar Monday night, grabbed the bartender and said "I'm robbing you," before stealing $166 from the cash register, authorities said.

An employee of the O-Zone Bar, located in the 2200 block of Genesee, told police the man also stole a metal cash box, but another individual in the tavern confronted the thief, who dropped the box as he fled, according to Northeast District police. The incident happened at 8:10 p.m. Major Case Squad detectives assisted in the investigation.

Tractor-trailer spills
its cargo of cranberries

Some 40,000 pounds of cranberries spilled onto Route 83 in the Town of Villenova Monday when the tractor-trailer transporting the berries overturned, according to state police in Fredonia.

Christopher Kramer, 35, of South Dayton was westbound when his vehicle failed to negotiate a curve and hit a guardrail and utility pole before losing its load.

Kramer suffered a minor leg injury in the crash at 9:45 a.m. He was treated in Brooks Memorial Hospital, Dunkirk, and released.

Apartment building fire
in Falls leaves four homeless

NIAGARA FALLS -- Four people, including three children, were left homeless when fire swept through their apartment building at midday Monday.

Investigators said the fire originated in a first-floor living room at 1516 Whitney Ave. just before 3 p.m. It quickly spread through walls to the attic area.

Niagara Falls fire crews battled the blaze for nearly four hours, trying to keep exposure damage to a minimum on houses on either side of the fire scene. Both were damaged, although apparently not seriously, officials said.

The Niagara Falls Chapter of the American Red Cross was assisting four residents of the twin apartment complex late Monday. Their names were not available.

Cause of the fire remains under investigation. The home is owned by St. Catharines, Ont., resident Branco Dzalto, according to Fire Department records. Damage to the building was estimated at $30,000, with another $10,000 damage to the contents.

Police charge man, 21,
with not paying taxi fare

A Loepere Street man who refused to pay his cab fare when he was driven to a Wilson Street address late Monday was arrested by Ferry-Fillmore District officers, authorities said.

Officers Robert Lee and William Morris charged Jimmilee K. Levins, 21, of the first block of Loepere, with theft of services for failing to pay a $20.10 fare to a Broadway Taxi cab driver, police said.

The incident occurred on the 500 block of Wilson at 10:30 p.m., according to police.

Man questioned about fire
in vacant Falls building

NIAGARA FALLS -- Police are questioning a man in connection with a fire that caused $20,000 damage to a vacant building at 455 Ninth St. early Monday.

The suspect, who police said lives across the street from the fire scene, was reportedly seen by neighbors leaving the building a short time before flames were spotted at 2:43 a.m.

He told officers he used to live at the address and was picking up some belongings he had left there, police said.

Fire officials said that flames originated in the front of the first floor and spread to the second floor before being contained. An adjacent building also sustained minor exposure damage.

The building, owned by Tom Dickie of Lockport, sustained $20,000 damage, with another $5,000 damage to its contents, fire officials said. Mutual Aid was activated, and the Niagara County Sheriff's Department's arson-sniffing dog also was employed in the investigation.

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