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Man, 18, charged in firebombing that injured woman, four children

An 18-year-old Hartman Avenue man has been charged with firebombing a Shaffer Village apartment two weeks ago, injuring one women and four children -- one of them a 10-month-old girl.

Anthony Hammonds is accused of hurling a Molotov cocktail through the front kitchen window of the home at 21 West Lane at about 4 a.m. Nov. 28, according to police, fire and federal investigators.

A fierce blaze broke out at the two-story Riverside apartment. Firefighters rescued 18-year-old Keisha Croom and her two infants from the second floor. All of them had been overcome by the heavy black smoke from the fire.

Croom's two little sisters -- Ashanti Smith, 12, and Donzhae Smith-Howard, 11 -- jumped out of a second-story window to escape the encroaching flames. Their mother, Lynne Smith, and her son, Ruben Smith, 4, escaped without injury.

David DeJoe, agent in charge of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives office in Buffalo, declined to reveal the motive for the firebombing attack.

He also declined to say if there was a relationship between Hammonds and any of the seven victims.

"It's a bombing, and it's our No. 1 investigative priority," said DeJoe. "It's very serious, and it's even more serious when it results in injuries. And we're even more personally involved when there's kids hurt."

DeJoe said the ongoing case is a joint investigation between ATF, Buffalo fire, state and Buffalo police.

According to police reports, ATF and the State Police obtained a search warrant for 87 Guernsey -- which was described by officials as a drug house.

At about 7:40 p.m. Tuesday, members of all four agencies executed a raid at the house, where they found Hammonds inside.

Police said they confiscated nine bags of individually packaged crack cocaine in plain view in the rear hallway. Police said Hammonds intended to sell the drugs.

"As a result of executing the search warrant, evidence was recovered that led to his arrest," DeJoe said.

Hammonds was taken to the ATF office on Main Street, where he gave police a statement and was arrested by Buffalo Police Officers John Caruso and Louis Cardona at 2 a.m. Wednesday.

He was charged with two felonies -- arson and criminal possession of a controlled substance -- but authorities said further charges are pending.

Officials with the district attorney's office added that investigators are seeking more suspects who may be connected to the incident.

Hammonds, who is being held without bail, is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday for a felony hearing.

e-mail: vthomas@buffnews.com and mbecker@buffnews.com

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