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One held in violent robbery

With one man in custody Tuesday, investigators continued to search for two other men who took part of an armed robbery at a Kentucky Fried Chicken on West Avenue Monday night.

"This was a pretty violent crime. I'm hoping the [district attorney's] office will look at this. Not only was a police officer hurt, which is pretty significant, but they went into a KFC and were terrorizing the people that work there," Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert said.

"They held guns to people's heads, shoved them around, had them on the ground with guns to the back of their heads, threatened to kill them. They threatened these poor clerks who are just doing their jobs," Eggert said.

According to police reports each of the men had a gun, and one of them discharged his gun, breaking a window in the door.
One of the men jumped over the counter and ordered the clerk to hand over the money in the register, and another forced a clerk to open a safe in the back of the store.

Lt. Brian Wentland suffered minor upper body injuries when his car was rammed by the thieves' vehicle at Red Line Automotive. He was treated and released from Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport.

"They waited until he got out of the car and tried to ram the police car. It's pretty disturbing. They had escape routes on both sides, but they purposely tried to run him over," Eggert said.

Eggert said the man waited until Wentland got out and then tried to hit him. When the suspect's car came at him, Wentland saw it coming and was able to jump up onto the running board of his patrol car.

"The injuries really could have been much more significant," Eggert said.

Detective Lt. Scott Seekins told The Buffalo News that the call came in at 8:40 Monday night as he and Detective Kevin Schrader were going off duty.

He said that he called Schrader on his cell phone to be aware of the call and that Schrader spotted a suspicious vehicle near Red Line Automotive, less than a block away on West Avenue.

Eggert said the car was backed into an area where no cars park and then the driver "slid down in his seat."

Schrader was able to radio in the suspicious vehicle, and Wentland did a quick U-turn.

After the car rammed Wentland, the driver took off and was pursued by Niagara County Sheriff's Deputy Gary May. The suspects abandoned their vehicle on Prentice Street and ran into yards, police said.

Seekins said the chase went on all over the city, with help from Border Patrol, K-9, Niagara County Sheriff, state police, New York State parole and Middleport police, who processed the scene at KFC.

Eggert said it was a good example of interoffice cooperation.

Seekins said they reached out for leads and tips and about 3 1/2 hours later had the first suspect in custody -- David L. Nelson, 26, a parolee, of Gabriel Drive.

Nelson is believed to be a friend of the woman who owned the getaway automobile and was now reporting it stolen. After he was arrested, he confessed and has provided information on his two accomplices.

Nelson has been arraigned in City Court and charged with two-counts of first-degree robbery and second-degree assault and held on $500,000 bail. He is expected to appear in court today to apply for a public defender.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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