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POLICE & COURTS

>Faulty fireplace blamed for blaze in Amherst home

A defective fireplace sparked a blaze about 7:15 p.m. Wednesday that caused $175,000 damage to a Patrice Terrace home in Amherst, Main-Transit firefighters said.

Firefighters arriving at 83 Patrice encountered heavy smoke pouring from the 2 1/2 -story home. The fire started in the basement ceiling area of the house, fire officials said.

Residents of the house, who escaped unharmed, told firefighters they heard a loud "pop" in the basement, saw smoke and summoned firefighters, who were on the scene in about three minutes.

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>Fine, community service ordered in storm scam

A Fisher Street man was fined $500 and ordered to perform 300 hours of community service for his role in a limb removal scam related to last October's snowstorm, Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard said.

Luther Barr, 36, pleaded guilty to three counts of filing false business records.

The scam involved submitting false paperwork for work in various Erie County parks that was never completed. Barr conspired to submit invoices for tree limbs that were never cut.

He was the third person arrested and convicted of fraud in the scam. Additional arrests are expected.

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>Man refuses to apologize to victim's mother in court

During his sentencing Wednesday, Demetrius McCray refused to apologize to the weeping mother of the man he was accused of fatally shooting during a robbery on Nov. 13, 2005.

McCray, 28, of Van Gorder Street, was sentenced by Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio to spend the next 25 years in prison -- the maximum sentence that could be imposed.

A jury on Aug. 21 found McCray guilty of robbery and weapons counts in the fatal shooting of Bobby Andrews, 28, during a $300 holdup outside a nightclub at Kensington and Olympic avenues. Andrews died three months after the shooting. McCray, however, was acquitted of second-degree murder.

DiTullio noted that Andrews, of Highgate Avenue, "suffered tremendous pain" before dying on Feb. 26, 2006, of complications from a gunshot wound to the pelvis. He was described by the judge as "hardworking," and a "loving father of two who was at the wrong place at the wrong time."

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>Shotgun blasts exchanged at Winspear Avenue home

A gunman fired a shot Tuesday night into a Winspear Avenue house, and the occupant retaliated by firing a shot back, police reported. No injuries were reported.

The incident happened at about 6:10 p.m. in the 400 block of Winspear in the city's University Heights neighborhood.

Northeast District police said three men dressed in black hooded shirts came to the door, repeatedly pounded and kicked on the door, and demanded that the woman inside open her door, police said.

One of the men then fired a shotgun through her door, near the peep hole.

When the woman used her own shotgun to return fire, the three men drove away, police reported. The woman's shot struck a neighboring house.

Police believe two of the men had shotguns, while the third man had a handgun.

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>Shogun restaurant's safe is stolen in break-in

Amherst police are looking for the thieves who broke into a Transit Road restaurant and stole a safe containing a considerable amount of cash overnight Monday.

The burglars pried open a side door at Shogun restaurant, 7590 Transit, sometime between closing late Monday night and early Tuesday afternoon. The safe contained a couple of thousand dollars in cash, police said,

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>Robbery, burglary hit Broadway Market

Buffalo police are investigating two crimes at the Broadway Market on Wednesday.

A 66-year-old Woltz Avenue woman told police that as she got out of a taxi at noon at the rear of the market a man knocked her to the ground and warned, "If you want to keep breathing, don't turn around."

The man took her purse and wallet containing $300 cash and $1,254 in food stamps as well as other items.

Meanwhile, police said someone used a brick to smash a window of Create A Shirt Unlimited between 5 and 6 a.m. T-shirts and a laptop computer were missing from the business, police said.

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