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City fireman charged after drug raids

A city firefighter was arrested on felony drug charges after Buffalo narcotics detectives raided two properties, including his West Seneca home, Thursday and uncovered an extensive hydroponic marijuana-growing operation, police said.

As Robert W. Kunz, 43, of Brookside Drive, was getting off his job Thursday afternoon at Ladder 15 at Clinton Street and Bailey Avenue, narcotics detectives raided a house he owns on Allegany Street in Buffalo, then his home on Brookside.

Detectives recovered 50 potted marijuana plants in various stages of growth from the house in Buffalo, along with lamps and other growing equipment, authorities said late Thursday. At the house in West Seneca, police said, they found several more pounds of dried marijuana on trays, waiting to be packaged.

A quantity of hallucinogenic mushrooms and some pills also were seized, along with a shotgun, according to police.

The raids were part of an investigation by the State Attorney General's Office and Buffalo police. Buffalo Narcotics Detectives Thomas E. Doctor and John C. Garcia were the lead investigators. West Seneca and Lackawanna police also participated.

Kunz was charged Thursday with felony counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal possession of marijuana and criminal use of drug paraphernalia. He also was charged with a misdemeanor drug-possession count and violations of the Public Health Law.

Authorities said that Kunz was under police surveillance from the time he left his firehouse Thursday, adding that Kunz stopped at a tavern on his way home before West Seneca police tried to apprehend him when he arrived at his house on Brookside.

Kunz fled on foot, police said, and was apprehended a short time later across the city line on Carlyle Avenue by South District Officers Kevin M. Kennedy and James T. Reese. Kunz, an 11-year veteran of the Buffalo Fire Department, was taken to the Erie County Holding Center late Thursday and is scheduled to be arraigned this morning in Buffalo City Court.

The firefighter was arrested in a similar incident in May 2006, after police said they found 12 pounds of pre-weighed marijuana, heating lamps and other equipment in a home he owned on Dallas Road in Buffalo.

At that time, Kunz was charged with felony criminal possession of marijuana and, under the Public Health Law, unlawfully growing cannabis. However, the case was dismissed on evidence-suppression issues.

Timothy Knott also was charged with felony criminal possession of marijuana. Police said he was at the Allegany Street house during the raid.

e-mail: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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