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DRUG FIGURE FOUND FATALLY WOUNDED AT FIRE

A man who was well known to Buffalo police as a suspect in the shooting of a police lieutenant and for his involvement in the city's drug trade died Sunday afternoon in a shooting and arson on the city's East Side.

The victim, Tamar Simmons, 25, of 152 Mulberry St., was apparently shot several times at 60 Sweet Ave. before the house there was set ablaze.

Lt. William P. Conwall, assistant chief of detectives for the city's homicide squad, said Simmons was found by Buffalo firefighters after they responded to the location about 3:30 p.m.

Acting Battalion Chief Michael Lombardo of Ladder 11 said he saw flames spewing from the front windows on the first floor of the house after arriving on the scene. There was blood on the porch and a locked front door, he said.

After forcing the door open, Lombardo said he saw the victim's body "just to the right of the door."

"The guy was face down and there was blood all over him and on the floor. It was obvious he was unconscious. The whole front room was engulfed in flames."

Lombardo said he pulled the wounded man from the house and began to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Simmons apparently had been shot in the chest several times, according to firefighters. He was transported to Sheehan Memorial Hospital, where he died of his injuries a short time later. An autopsy is expected to be conducted today to determine the exact cause of death.

Neighbors on the street said they heard between three and five gunshots before witnessing flames erupting from the first-floor front windows of the 1 1/2 -story, wood-frame house.

"I was watching a football game on TV," said one unidentified man, who was visiting a home across the street.

"I heard a couple of popping sounds, but I thought it was kids playing with firecrackers," he continued. "A little bit later, I saw flames shooting from the windows."

Fire officials said there appeared to be several areas in the house where fires were started. Damage was pegged at $20,000.

Conwall said it was unclear whether the arson-homicide is drug-related but did indicate the victim had a history of involvement in drugs.

Police refused to disclose the type of weapon used in the slaying and were unsure how many times Simmons had been shot.

Conwall said police were following up several leads relating to a suspect but had no specific description.

About 45 minutes after police and firefighters arrived, a woman identified as the occupant of the Sweet Avenue house arrived on the scene. Police declined to say whether there was any relation between the woman and the victim.

Shortly after the fire was extinguished, a police tow-truck was observed removing a black Lincoln Continental from the scene.

The car, parked directly in front of 60 Sweet Ave., was impounded for further investigation. Police said they were unsure whether the vehicle was involved in the crime.

Simmons was still considered one of the primary suspects in the May 1992 "urban terrorism" attack in which more than 10 shots were fired at police and Lt. James P. Smith was wounded in the face.

No arrests were made in that case.

In 1994 Simmons was found innocent in the slaying of a store owner and clerk during a robbery.

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