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ARREST CLEARS 11 ROBBERIES IN AREA, POLICE SAY

Authorities claim they have the so-called "Newport Cigarette" bandit behind bars, charged with three holdups in the Town of Tonawanda and identified by witnesses in eight others in Buffalo, Amherst and the City of Tonawanda in a robbery spree mostly involving convenience stores and gas stations.

Paul Bridgefourth, 50, of Holland Place in Buffalo already faces charges in three Town of Tonawanda robberies since Aug. 16, town police said today.

Buffalo police confirmed that Bridgefourth now has been identified in five holdups in the city from July 8 to Aug. 25. Charges are pending in those five robberies.

Bridgefourth also has been identified in two robberies in the City of Tonawanda and one in Amherst, officials added.

Detectives say they believe Bridgefourth was responsible for most of the robbery spree that started in early July in the northwest section of the city, the Tonawandas and Amherst.

"Since his arrest, the robberies have diminished considerably in the northwest section of the city," said Lt. Larry J. Baehre, the Buffalo police public information officer.

In most of the robberies, police said, the robber carried a silver or black handgun, took Newport cigarettes, and had a plastic bandage or a fresh scar on his face.

Detectives also were struck by the bandit's nonchalant manner.

"He was a cool robber, very cavalier about how he went about doing it," Town of Tonawanda Detective Jeffrey Campanella said. "He was never nervous or jerky."

The break in the case came Sept. 8, in a robbery at the Red Apple convenience store at 2309 Colvin Blvd., Town of Tonawanda. The robber, who took $117 in cash plus some Newport cigarettes, was caught on the store's surveillance camera.

Buffalo police passed on a tip about the robber's identity to Town of Tonawanda police, who arrested Bridgefourth. Not surprisingly, police said, he had a pack of Newports on him at the time.

"It was definitely his cigarette of choice," Campanella said. "It was another piece to the puzzle."

In the Town of Tonawanda,Bridgefourth also has been charged with robberies at the Super 8 Motel on Sheridan Drive on Aug. 16 and the House of Billiards on Delaware Avenue on Aug. 17, Campanella said.

Baehre added that the Major Case Squad has identified Bridgefourth in robberies at the Yellow Goose Market on Colvin Avenue, G&G Petroleum on Niagara Street, Wilson Farms on Niagara Street, Delta Sonic on Main Street and Gusto's Steak House on Jefferson Avenue.

"This was an outstanding job by our Major Case Squad," Baehre said. "There was a lot of legwork in putting this all together, contacting the witnesses and putting the photo arrays together."

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