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Shooting suspect surrenders

An 18-year-old Ferry Avenue man turned himself in Monday in connection with the Saturday morning shooting of a 20-year-old city man on Pine Avenue, an incident police said is a continuation of gang-related violence in the city.

Howard Welch, of Ferry Avenue, was charged with first-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangerment and criminal use of a firearm. He pleaded not guilty in City Court, and bail was set at $100,000.

The victim, who was fully alert at the scene, was shot in the buttocks just after 11:30 a.m. near 30th Street and taken to Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo, police said.

Welch is accused of shooting the man with a handgun after a fight in a wireless cell phone store was moved outside into an alley, said Capt. William M. Thomson, chief of detectives.

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster was in the same neighborhood Saturday with Councilwoman Kristen M. Grandinetti when the shooting happened.

"I could see they were visibly shaken," said Dyster, who walked up and down what he calls the "Main Street" of his city reassuring business owners in the neighborhood.

Dyster said they immediately put officers on overtime and had them stepping up patrols and putting their heads in on businesses.

"I'm optimistic that law enforcement activities will address this immediate situation," Dyster said. "I'm not going to let the criminal element take control of any neighborhood.

"But the long-term situation . . . Frankly, that is more difficult to undo," Dyster said, noting the proliferation of people reaching for guns.

The shooting is the latest in a surge of gun violence in the city. There have been nearly 50 shooting-related incidents since the start of the year, many of them gang-related, Thomson said.

Narcotics Division Lt. Kelly Rizzo said police also have formed a multidivisional task force with their base in Niagara Falls, which includes members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Border Patrol and the State Police.

"With the recent rise in shootings," Rizzo told The Buffalo News, "we are going to start looking at directing these investigations toward specific gang members."

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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