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Boys held in deli owner's murder Arrests called 'excellent field-level police work'

Two young teenagers were charged Monday in last month's brazen robbery and murder of a Fillmore Avenue deli owner.

Robert L. Gwynn Jr., 15, of Victoria Street, and a 13-year-old male accomplice whose name was not released by authorities, are accused of robbing Lutf Myheeb Saeed of $50 and then shooting him in the chest after the midmorning heist Nov. 15 at Myheeb's Deli at Fillmore and Rodney avenues.

The case came together late Sunday, when Northeast District Officers Ronald Ammerman and Wendy Collier were able to locate a witness who knew the 13-year-old and the teen's involvement in the crime, top police officials said.

"The witness identified the 13-year-old who was involved in the homicide and robbery of Mr. Saeed's store," said H. McCarthy Gipson, Buffalo police commissioner.

That boy was taken into custody and "subsequently confessed," Gipson said. He then led police to Gwynn, who did the shooting, the commissioner said.

Buffalo Police SWAT, homicide detectives and Northeast District officers searched Gwynn's home.

"[Gwynn] was taken into custody, and the gun used in the robbery and homicide of Mr. Saeed was recovered in the youth's bedroom," Gipson said. "This was the result of just excellent field-level police work on the street."

Saeed was alone in the store when the two boys entered at about 10:15 a.m.

They stole money from the cash register and shot Saeed with a shotgun once in the chest before they fled, police said. Saeed died about a half-hour later in Erie County Medical Center.

Saeed, a Yemeni immigrant known in the neighborhood as "Mike," had owned the deli for about 10 years. He lived next door with his wife and three children -- a 14-year-old daughter and two younger sons. He also owned Better Buy Market on Genesee Street.

Authorities wouldn't reveal why Saeed was killed, saying only that statements made by the boys will be part of the prosecution's evidence against them at trial. Gwynn also provided a statement to police, said Dennis J. Richards, chief of detectives. Richards wouldn't say whether Gwynn's statement was a confession.

Police also refused to comment on whether Gwynn and the 13-year-old are suspects in the Aug. 29 unsolved robbery and slaying of 36-year-old Ziad Nasser, an Englewood Avenue deli owner.

Gwynn was arraigned Monday morning on charges of second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree robbery. The 13-year-old will be petitioned to Family Court, according to John J. DeFranks, Erie County's first deputy district attorney.

"We had insufficient evidence to charge him with intentional murder. . . . That's the only charge a 13-year-old can face as an adult," DeFranks said.

Both boys were being held late Monday in the county's youth detention facility on East Ferry Street.

News of their arrests will bring some solace to Saeed's wife and children, said Abdul Anisafe, Saeed's brother-in-law.

"She's holding on. . . . She doesn't have any other choice but to be strong for the kids," Anisafe said of his sister. "We'll be there to help them, but there's nothing like a father. You cannot replace the love and support a father can give."

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, who held up a hand-written letter he received from Saeed's 14-year-old daughter during a Monday afternoon news conference, said he was pleased the city and police were able to respond to her plea to catch her father's killers.

Still, Brown said, the girl will always deal with "why she doesn't have a father."

The mayor called upon parents to take active roles in the lives of their children in order to quell the rash of youth-related violence in the city.

"Parents need to be vigilant and more involved in properly raising their children," Brown said, pointing out that his own parents "knew everything" that was going on in his bedroom and what was in his bedroom when he was a youth.

Gipson called youth-related violence "very problematic." He said police are seeing a disturbing trend of younger and younger juveniles carrying guns -- believing that they need to carry them for protection -- and shooting them "with impunity."

"It's not just 15, 16 and 17 . . . but, 13, 14 and 15 [year-olds] that are possessing and carrying illegal weapons," Gipson said.

e-mail: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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