A 16-year-old Niagara Falls High School student with a criminal history was shot to death Wednesday night during a robbery in what Niagara Falls police called a "justified homicide."
Anthony M. Sheard, of 13th Street, who would have turned 17 in two weeks, was shot in the head by a 54-year-old deliveryman for Mr. Ventry's Pizza.
Police said Sheard and another person had tried to rob the deliveryman at gunpoint at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday in an alley on the 1300 block of Pierce Avenue.
At about 4 p.m. Thursday, police arrested Aldeaz M. Lewis, 16, of Elmwood Avenue, on a charge of second-degree robbery. Information on his status was not available late Thursday.
Sheard, who was carrying what appeared to be a gun, was shot once in the head while struggling with the deliveryman.
"We believe the deliveryman acted in self-defense," Police Capt. Ernest Palmer said. "We know he saw a gun. Later, the gun we found at the scene turned out to be a Walther PPK look-alike gun that was actually a CO2 pellet gun."
Police did not release the name of the deliveryman, citing fears he could be targeted for retribution. They said Sheard recently had been arrested on charges of felony gang assault and was accused of breaking another person's jaw.
The deliveryman told police he struggled with the two masked robbers who tackled him in the alleyway near the pizza shop where he worked.
"We found mud on his clothes, scrapes on his hands, and the contents of his pockets strewn about" the alleyway, Palmer said.
Palmer said the deliveryman, who was registered to carry a concealed weapon, shot Sheard with a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun.
Late Thursday, the deliveryman told to The Buffalo News why he carried a firearm.
"I was robbed three years ago," he said. "That's the main reason I bought the gun, but of course I hoped I would never use it. I just feel terrible for that kid's family."
He said he plans to take some time off and talk to a counselor, adding he did not know if he would continue to deliver pizzas.
"I was making a delivery by invitation. Trouble came to me, and I am very sorry it ended this way, ended in someone's death," he said.
Word of the death plunged Niagara Falls High School, where Sheard was a sophomore, into mourning. By noon Thursday, his locker had turned into a makeshift memorial. Students brought cards with messages for their friend and his family.
"We still don't know a whole lot other than the specifics of what happened," building administrator Phil Mohr said Thursday morning. "Our primary goal was to determine what was true and how to handle students arriving who were very, very upset."
School officials assembled a crisis intervention team that included administrators, counselors, safety officers and a nurse. The team came up with a plan on how its members were going to greet students coming into school.
"We knew the young man was a very popular student who did well in school, and we had to prepare for the kids who arrived that needed to grieve," Principal Mark Laurrie said. "He had a very large circle of friends."
"We allowed them to grieve and be together," he added. "They really needed to do that."
He said six to 10 students were so upset that they were allowed to go home from school.
Mohr said he would update students and area residents about Sheard's death on the Our Schools Channel, Cable Channel 21 in Niagara Falls.
The robbery attempt and shooting underscored the risks in the delivery trade.
The job of sales driver -- which includes pizza delivery workers -- is the fifth most dangerous job in the nation, with nearly a quarter of deaths coming from robberies and assaults, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Mr. Ventry's has been in business for more than 20 years and, according to an employee, has been hit by robberies three times during the past month.
"I've been here seven years, and before this month, we were never robbed," said James Rafferty, an employee. "This is crazy. I'm supposed to be making deliveries this summer. But now, I'm having second thoughts."
Palmer said several pizza deliverymen had been robbed in recent weeks. Some robbers have demanded money; others money and the pizza, he said.
The investigation of the shooting has been turned over to Niagara County District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III, who said the case could go to the grand jury.
News Staff Reporters Andrew Z. Galarneau and Paul Westmoore contributed to this story.