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ASIAN MAN WITH BACKPACK SOUGHT IN SMUGGLING PROBE

Ontario Niagara Parks Police are searching for an Asian man with a backpack who they believe is trying to smuggle himself or contraband into the United States or Canada.

Police said the man was discovered near the abutments of the International Railroad Bridge near Bridge Street in Niagara Falls, Ont., shortly after midnight.

The man claimed he had an injured leg, but firefighters and emergency workers could not reach him because of the depth and steepness of the gorge and because of foggy conditions. Police believe the man concealed himself in rugged terrain and was attempting to elude them. A helicopter search was planned.

Turkeys, chickens stolen
from church food pantry

Someone stole 39 turkeys and 24 chickens from the freezer storage room of a food pantry at 210 Southampton St. on Thursday.

"I can't understand why anybody would be so mean this time of year," said the Rev. James Lewis, pastor of J.W. Loguen Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which runs the food pantry. "I don't know how we're going to replace those turkeys for all those families."

The turkeys and chickens, along with three cases of salmon and a case of soup that were taken, had been stockpiled for Thanksgiving for needy families. Central District officers said intruders broke a basement window sometime between 5 and 6:15 a.m. and ruined the locks on the storage room freezer. Tools left behind were held as evidence.

"Maybe they're going to go door to door to try and sell those turkeys," the minister said.

He asked anyone with information to call him at 891-8136.

West Side man pleads guilty
in two carjacking incidents

A West Avenue man pleaded guilty in Erie County Court on Thursday to robbery charges in a carjacking and an attempted carjacking minutes apart on his 21st birthday last summer.

Alexis Gonzalez-Saez pleaded guilty to felony robbery and felony attempted robbery for the crimes on Bryant Street and Elmwood Avenue. The carjacking ended in a crash, moments after Gonzalez-Saez and two teenage accomplices threw a 23-year-old man in the trunk of his car and made off with it.

Jailed since the July 15 incidents, Gonzalez-Saez told County Judge Michael Pietruszka he was high on drugs and alcohol at that time.

He could face up to 22 years in prison on his guilty pleas. But the judge told him that he probably will face five years in prison when he and his two jailed accomplices -- Carlos Osorio, 15, also of West Avenue, and Julio Ramos, 14, of Congress Street -- are sentenced Jan. 9.

Parochial school evacuated
after gas odor is detected

Students were evacuated from St. Thomas Aquinas School in South Buffalo on Thursday after firefighters were called to investigate a report of a natural gas odor.

At least one kitchen worker became ill because of gas fumes, fire officials said, but no gas leak was found, and the odor quickly dissipated.

Students were evacuated at 11:45 a.m. and went to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church next door, officials said.

Buffalo man tells police
he lost $8,563 in scam

A Hertel Avenue man wired $8,563 to a caller from New York City after being told he had won a German lottery, Northwest District officers reported Thursday.

The man told police the woman on the phone said that in order to claim his prize he had to wire money to someone named Accra Ghana in New York. This happened three times. The man sent money by Western Union from a Tonawanda Street store on Nov. 2, 13 and 15, according to police, who are investigating the scam.

Salesmen assault man, 66,
when he won't close the deal

Two high-pressure salesmen assaulted a 66-year-old South Buffalo man Thursday when he refused to sign a $5,000 contract for a home improvement loan.

Police said the Woodside Avenue man's son came to his aid, forcing the men to leave. They fled in a black Saab with a license plate number ending in 4793, according to South District officers.

The men gave the victim a flier from an established Amherst remodeling company. One of the men had a teardrop tattoo and wore a black leather jacket.

Two arrested on Box Avenue;
pot found in vacant house

Two men were arrested Thursday on Box Avenue, and 195 bags of marijuana were seized in a nearby vacant house, according to the Buffalo Flex Unit.

"That's enough pot to supply that street for half a day," said Officer Salvatore Juste, who said he was on his way to cash his check when he spotted the suspects making drug sales at Box and Moselle Street. "There's a real problem in that neighborhood. We've taken three to four pounds of pot there so far this year."

LaVance Holmes, 22, of Reed Street, and Julian Veal, 18, of Bissell Avenue, each was charged with felony possession of marijuana and misdemeanor sale.