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18-year-old gets 5 years in shooting over Clarence 'drug turf'

A former Clarence High School student was sentenced Friday for a March 2017 ambush of another man in what was described as a "turf battle" over selling marijuana in the suburb.

Zachery Aroix, now 18, the last of three teens to be sentenced in the case, received five years in prison for planning, setting up and carrying out the March 31 attack on Emaure Williams, who was then 21. Aroix previously pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder in the second degree after admitting he shot Williams in the leg during the incident.

Aroix was described in Erie County Court by Assistant District Attorney Danielle D'Abate as the ringleader of the ambush. He reportedly texted Williams to meet him at a construction site on Gentwood Drive in Clarence, but when Williams arrived, Aroix and two others tried to rob him.

Aroix ordered Williams to the ground and, when he refused, pointed a rifle at his head, according to prosecutors. Williams reportedly grabbed the barrel of the gun, which Aroix fired in the struggle, striking the victim in the leg.

Williams managed to get back to his car and lock the doors, while Aroix continued firing, shooting out the windows of the car as Williams fled, D'Abate said.

Noting that Aroix's attorney was asking the judge to consider youthful offender status for his client, D'Abate said, "Youthful offender adjudications are for mistakes, not for attempted murder."

Judge Sheila A. DiTullio agreed with the prosecution and denied youthful offender status for Aroix, and spelled out her reasons in detail. She noted Aroix's long history of drug use, starting when he was 11 years old, and his nearly equally long history of having problems in school and multiple suspensions, previous arrests and failed efforts at counseling and drug treatment.

After his arrest in this case, she reminded him, "You told police you intended to rob (Williams) because you felt the victim was encroaching on your turf where you sold marijuana."

The judge said she felt the five years incarceration was necessary for the safety of the community.

Aroix's co-defendants, Ronald Andres and Mark R. Okon, who also were 17 at the time of the crime, both previously pleaded guilty to attempted robbery in the second degree. Andres was sentenced to two years incarceration and also was denied youthful offender status, in part because he was armed with an air pistol during the incident.

The judge deemed Okon the least culpable of the three, granted him youthful offender status, and sentenced him to probation on the condition that he attend a suitable vocational program.

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