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Former State Senate candidate arrested on weapons charges in Niagara Falls

Gia M. Arnold made headlines when she publicly admitted her extramarital affair in 2014 while running for the State Senate’s 62nd District seat.

Now the 26-year-old mother of three, who dropped out of the race and then re-entered it only to lose the Republican primary to Robert G. Ortt, is back in the news.

She was arrested earlier this week with an 18-year-old Niagara Falls resident on felony charges of criminal possession of a loaded rifle and handgun along with a combat knife that were found in the front section of her vehicle, according to Niagara Falls Police Capt. Michael Trane.

Arnold and Halim Johnson were arrested Wednesday night and offered no explanation for why they had the weapons. A black ski mask was also found in the Pontiac Vibe, police said.

The vehicle was stopped at 10:30 p.m. by Officers Tommie Caldwell and Marsha Gee, members of the department’s Roving Anti-Crime Unit, after they noticed Johnson failed to use a turn signal at the intersection of Haeberle Avenue and 15th Street, Trane said.

As those officers were conducting a records check, a second anti-crime unit arrived and Arnold was asked to step out of the vehicle by Officer Michael Tarnowski, who spotted a loaded magazine clip on her passenger seat.

“Before she got out, she had pushed her coat over the rifle, which was wedged between her seat and the door jam, trying to hide the rifle,” Trane said. “Tarnowski immediately placed her in handcuffs. Caldwell then had Johnson step out of the vehicle and Caldwell spotted a handgun with a red bandana around its grip in the driver’s side door cup holder.”

An investigation to determine who owns the guns is continuing and more charges are possible, Trane said. Officer Karl Brusino assisted in the arrests.

Arnold, an Albion resident, and Johnson, of Haeberle Avenue, remain incarcerated at the Niagara County Jail in Lockport in lieu of $5,000 bail and are scheduled to return to Niagara Falls City Court on Tuesday.

In August 2014, Arnold had announced that she was dropping out of the Senate race because she had an affair with a friend and had left her husband, but a week later she resumed her campaign after she said she received an outpouring of public support.

At the time, she had said, “To say I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and well wishes would be an understatement.”

Ortt, then the mayor of North Tonawanda, beat her in the Republican primary. He went on to win the general election and replaced former State Sen. George D. Maziarz, who had decided not to seek re-election.