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POLICE & COURTS

>Homicide victim's body recovered from creek

The body of a Buffalo man missing since mid-December was recovered from Cattaraugus Creek on Tuesday, state troopers said.

Troopers in a helicopter located the body of Michael K. Banks Jr., 19, not far from where Christopher M. Faieta, 44, of 30th Street, Niagara Falls, told authorities he dumped it after killing Banks.

Faieta is accused of using the butt of an air gun to beat Banks on Dec. 10 in his 30th Street home before strangling him with an amplifier cord. He pushed Banks' body off the Route 219 bridge into the creek, police said.

Faieta told police he acted in self-defense, contending the two were fighting over drugs when Banks pulled a gun. Banks' family denies he was involved in drugs, police said.

Authorities searched Cattaraugus Creek for weeks without success. But a clearer, calmer creek led to the discovery of the body, police said.

Faieta, who is charged with murder and two counts each of tampering with physical evidence and criminal possession of a weapon, pleaded not guilty last month in Niagara County Court.

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>Tip prompts quick raid on suspected dealers

Three men allegedly divvying up $11,000 in proceeds from the sale of hydroponic marijuana were arrested shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday, after Buffalo narcotics detectives raided a Rommel Avenue house and seized money, drugs and a loaded shotgun, Buffalo police said.

Ronald Z. Crayton, 46, of Rommel; Ernest L. Whitlock, 30, of Devon Green; and Byron C. Stoudmire, 18, of Wright Avenue, were each charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal possession of marijuana and criminal use of drug paraphernalia. Crayton, who has a prior felony conviction, and Whitlock, who has two, were also charged with felony criminal possession of a weapon.

Detectives said they were tipped by an informant and hastily organized the raid.

"We went through the door so quickly that they didn't even have the chance to move the money," Lt. Thomas Lyon said. "And they all had thousands of dollars in their pockets."

The shotgun, propped up against the wall near the door, was seized along with about four ounces of marijuana packaged in plastic bags and small glass containers, valued at about $5,000, police said.

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>Youth, 17, is charged with gunpoint robbery

Buffalo police suspect a 17-year-old Buffalo youth charged Monday with a gunpoint robbery also is responsible for several similar robberies on the Upper West Side.

Tyshawn P. Thomas, of Bailey Avenue, has been charged with two counts of robbery, two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of stolen property in connection with an incident at 10:20 a.m. Monday at Greenwood Place and Lafayette Avenue.

Police said the victim was confronted by a man armed with a silver handgun, who ordered him to empty his pockets, remove his rings and chain. The gunman stole two rings, a necklace and $7, then ran away.

Officers Terrence Supples and Scott Malec arrested Thomas at Grant Street and Ferguson Avenue and recovered the rings and money in his pants pockets. The chain later was found on the floor of the police cruiser.

Police said Northwest District detectives will be using Thomas' mug shot in photo arrays to determine if he fits the description of other robbers that have targeted the neighborhoods around Grant and West Ferry Street and Grant and Lafayette Avenue.

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>Judge's eye injury puts court on hold

An eye injury suffered by the region's chief federal judge will delay a major drug trial and other proceedings for at least two weeks.

Federal court officials said U.S. Judge Richard J. Arcara had emergency surgery to repair a detached retina Monday evening. He will be out of work until at least Feb. 27.

Arcara, 65, has rarely missed a day of work since becoming a federal judge in 1988. Four defendants in a major drug-trafficking case from Jamestown have been on trial before him since Jan. 19.

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>Fire in titanium hopper causes $25,000 damage

A late-morning fire Tuesday in a titanium hopper at a South Buffalo industry resulted in an estimated $25,000 damage, fire officials reported.

The fire started at about 11:20 a.m. at Goldman Titanium Co., 105 Dorothy St. Hazardous materials teams responded along with firefighters.

Fire officials said the superheated metal made it impossible to battle the blaze conventionally with water. They were forced to dump soda ash into the burning hopper in an effort to extinguish the flames. There were no injuries.

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>Man, 32, wounded in drive-by shooting

A 32-year-old Buffalo man was wounded Tuesday night during a drive-by shooting on French Street, police said.

Ernest Fair suffered a gunshot wound to his left forearm.

Ferry-Fillmore District police said Fair was standing next to his car, which was parked in the street in the 300 block of French, when gunfire erupted at about 9 p.m.

Officers said a white Ford Explorer with tinted windows pulled up to him and a gunman inside pulled out a pump shotgun and said, "I ain't no joke. I ain't playing. I'm going to kill you."

The gunman then fired a single shot.

The vehicle was found in the 200 block of Cherry Street.

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