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Judge sends message with sentence

Niagara County Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr. said he wanted to send a message to Niagara Falls youth Thursday, when he sentenced Christopher T. Walker Jr. to 10 years in prison for robbing a gas station and possessing cocaine.
Walker, 19, of Whitney Avenue, had pleaded guilty to reduced charges of attempted first-degree robbery and attempted fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. As part of the plea bargain, the sentence was capped at 10 years, although Broderick could have given Walker less. The heaviest possible sentence under the law was 16 1/2 years.

"This defendant deserves every bit of the 10 years," Assistant District Attorney Susan B. Bjornholm said. She said Walker and an unidentified accomplice, wearing masks, entered a Sunoco station on Hyde Park Boulevard in Niagara Falls on Christmas Eve, with a handgun and a shotgun.
Police reported that $3,000 was stolen. Bjornholm said that after the money was turned over, Walker struck the clerk in the head with the gun several times as a customer pleaded for the clerk's life.
Bjornholm said Walker then took the shotgun from the other robber and laid it on the ground as police encountered him outside, but Walker then ran away. Walker was accused of threatening Officer Michael Trane with the gun when Trane ran him down a short time later.
Much of this was caught on the gas station's surveillance videotape, Bjornholm said. She said Walker tried to argue that the money in his pocket was meant to buy Christmas gifts but changed his tune when his DNA was found on the discarded face mask.

The unrelated drug arrest occurred March 14.

"This case cries out for a message to the City of Niagara Falls: No more guns," Broderick said. "When they hear that Chris Walker got 10 years for what he did, maybe they'll think twice."

Walker's family was in the courtroom and didn't seem to think he should have been used as an example. They murmured angrily, and one man shouted obscenities at a sheriff's deputy who tried to usher him out of the courtroom. However, deputies were able to defuse the situation without arrests or violence.


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