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Police release surveillance image of suspect in Toys R Us killing

Grainy surveillance photos of an intruder inside the Hamburg Toys R Us store were released by police Sunday in hopes that the public can help them catch a killer.

The unidentified man – wearing a black and gold baseball cap and sweatpants with writing down the left leg – is the suspect in Saturday’s fatal attack on Laurence Wells, 35, of Blasdell, an assistant store manager at the Toys R Us at McKinley Parkway and Milestrip Road.

Wells was found seriously injured inside a store office early Saturday morning before opening. Wells – who suffered wounds to his shoulder and lower abdomen from some type of sharp instrument – was taken to Mercy Hospital, where he died, said Capt. Kevin Trask, a spokesman for the Hamburg Police Department.

An autopsy is scheduled for today.

Police on Sunday still had no motive in the attack, but they had a clue:

Left at the scene was a black and gold baseball cap commemorating the 2007 NCAA basketball tournament champion University of Florida Gators. A fiery basketball is depicted on the side of the cap’s bill, while “CHAMPIONS” is etched above the Gators’ logo.

Police also have video from the store’s surveillance system.

“We have the video of the guy coming into the building,” Trask said Sunday afternoon. “We see him at different spots throughout the store. Unfortunately, the quality of the video is not what we’d like.”

The surveillance photos can be seen on the department’s Facebook page:

Anyone who recognizes the suspect’s clothing or has any information that could be helpful in the case is asked to call Hamburg Police at 648-5111, Ext. 0, or Detective Scott Kashino at 648-5118, Ext. 2672.

“We’re looking to catch a break from someone who might recognize the hat or clothing,” Trask said.

The surveillance video shows what appears to be a man between 5 feet 9 inches and 5 feet 11 inches tall, police said.

He entered the building at 4:20 a.m. Saturday.

“He came through the entrance at Babies R Us,” Trask said. “We think he might have pried the door.”

He is wearing what appears to be the Florida Gators baseball cap, sweatpants and a jacket with a high tan collar or some sort of scarf, police said.

The suspect also appears to be holding a sharp instrument as he walks through the store, police said.

He entered the manager’s office at about 4:30 a.m.

A short time later, the surveillance system is disabled, presumably from the suspect’s pulling the plug from the wall, Trask said.

Wells, meanwhile, had arrived at the store shortly before 4 a.m. to unload a truck, Trask said.

Investigators believe the attack happened sometime between 4:40 and 5:45 a.m., when employees arrived at work and found Wells injured and bleeding in a chair in the office, after he failed to respond to radio calls.

Wells was unconscious, but still had a pulse, when the first officer arrived at the scene at 5:50 a.m. Saturday, the captain said.

No one else saw or encountered the intruder, Trask said.

“From the employees that we spoke to, that were able to view the images yesterday, none of them recognized the suspect from the video,” Trask said Sunday.

The surveillance video has been sent out to experts in hopes of enhancing the quality of the images, while the hat is being tested for DNA, Trask said.

“Unfortunately, the DNA and the enhancement of the video take a little time,” Trask said. “We can only move as fast as technology.”

When asked if this could have been a botched burglary, Trask said: “It’s hard to say. We really don’t have a motive.”

“It’s not apparent immediately, but it’s an investigation, so it’s going to take time,” Trask said. “It’s just a matter of putting the pieces together.”

The parking lot of the Toys R Us where Wells was attacked remained cordoned off by police tape Sunday afternoon.

No cars or people were in the immediate area, but a small vase of flowers sat near the entrance. Signs taped to the door said the store would reopen at 10 a.m. today.

Police answered the door early Sunday evening at Wells’ Blasdell home and said his friends and relatives asked for privacy.

A woman who was called at the home refused to comment.

Two of Wells’ former Toys R Us coworkers described Wells as “one of the best guys” who “always had a smile on his face.” Neither could guess why anyone would want to hurt him.

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