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Probe of tow-truck fatality looking into role of drugs

Buffalo homicide detectives still are operating under the theory that a confrontation between two competing tow-truck operators resulted in a fatal shooting, but they are now also looking into whether drugs may have played a role in the weekend homicide.

Detectives say evidence points to a fight over who would get a tow as provoking the deadly shooting of Corddaryl Henley, but law enforcement sources added they have received information that the 25-year-old might have been selling drugs out of his tow truck.

"That is something we are looking into after receiving information, but we still believe an argument over a towing incident most likely resulted in the shooting," a police source told The Buffalo News on Thursday.

Henley was shot three times in the head at 1:40 p.m. Saturday at Walden Avenue and Latour Street, close to Martin Luther King Park, by a man inside a gray or silver vehicle, which raced away from the scene, according to authorities.

Those in the city's towing industry Thursday afternoon said they found it hard to believe that someone would kill a fellow operator over a towing fee. Towing fees can range from about $100 to $250, and do not include storage fees.

"I am hard-pressed to believe this is related to a towing issue. To me, this sounds like an assassin shooting, that there was something underlying," said Jim Mazzariello, owner of Jim Mazz Auto, a towing outfit and auto collision and repair shop on the 1200 block of Bailey Avenue.

He added that Buffalo police at crash scenes are in charge and perform an excellent job keeping order.

Henley, he said, formerly worked for him and though he had his troubles, generally was a good employee.

"It really is a shame, and I offer my condolences to his family. He was an ex-employee, a very good and productive worker," Mazzariello said. "But in regards to this being related to the towing industry, it would be misleading to the public to criminalize our industry based on a singular and isolated incident."

"We've had little disputes but never serious incidents or violence," he said. "When the game is over, we'll go and sit and have a cup of coffee."

The competition, tow-truck operators said, goes beyond towing and vehicle storage fees. Lawyers, chiropractors and doctors, they said, seek referrals from tow-truck workers who are often among the first at crash scenes.

"Attorneys and chiropractors will have their cards given out by tow-truck workers," said one tow-truck operator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.