The suspect in a robbery and double shooting at a gas station and convenience store may have tried to kill a Lockport police officer moments before he was subdued Wednesday night, Capt. Lawrence M. Eggert said.
Steven Smith, 43, of Checkered Tavern Road, Hartland, was charged with two counts of first-degree robbery in connection with a 6:30 p.m. holdup attempt at the Sunoco station at South Transit and High streets.
Eggert said the suspect fled the scene in a blue Ford Taurus after trying to rob two men in the store, both of whom were shot with a handgun after they fought the intruder. Police received a 911 call from a pay phone outside the store.
The names of the victims were not immediately available, but Eggert said that one of them, the 55-year-old store owner, was shot twice, in the arm and shoulder, but continued to fight with the robber all the way to the gasoline pumps, where the suspect's car was parked. Also resisting the robbery attempt was a male clerk in his late teens or early 20s, who was shot once in the arm.
Both victims were taken to Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo, one by
ambulance and the other by the Mercy Flight helicopter. Police Chief Neil B. Merritt said that their wounds were not life-threatening and that the clerk was released after treatment late Wednesday.
Eggert said a patrol car driven by Capt. Jeffrey Brodsky arrived on the scene as the suspect was leaving and chased the suspect's car over several residential streets before heading north on Market Street. Brodsky broke off the pursuit because of slick conditions, but not before he noted the car's license plate.
Niagara County Sheriff Thomas A. Beilein said the auto was registered to Smith at his home. Eggert said that Brodsky was among officers from the city police, the Sheriff's Department and the State Police who went to Checkered Tavern Road, and that he recognized a car behind the house as the one he had been chasing.
Lockport Officer Steven Ritchie and Sheriff's Deputy James Hildreth, using police dogs, followed a trail of footprints across a snowy field and into some woods.
Eggert said that after about a quarter-mile, Ritchie "heard a loud click, like a trigger being pulled." He hit the ground and saw Smith hiding under trees.
Hildreth and Ritchie ordered Smith to surrender at gunpoint, but he refused and had to be taken forcibly into custody about 8 p.m., Eggert said. After the arrest, the officers found a duffel bag that contained a .22-caliber rifle. Eggert said the rifle had misfired after its trigger was pulled.
Ritchie was one of two Lockport officers who suffered near-fatal gunshot wounds in a Feb. 9, 2003, shootout in a Lockport trailer park with a suspect who was shot to death by Detective Lt. Scott Seekins. Wednesday, Seekins worked at the crime scene, while Eggert, the other officer wounded in the 2003 shootout, supervised.
"It brings back some bad memories," Mayor Michael W. Tucker told reporters.
Merritt said the robbery attempt was reported just as detectives were returning to Lockport with a bank robbery suspect they had arrested in Cheektowaga.
Eggert said Marcus C. Crosby, 20, of Linda Lane, was arrested after Lt. Richard L. Podgers and Cheektowaga Police staked out his home. He is charged with first-degree robbery in the Dec. 9 holdup of an M&T Bank branch on Walnut Street in Lockport. A second suspect's name is known, and he is being sought, Eggert said.