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Erie County convicts 13 offenders of weapons charges so far in September

Two men who were shot while robbing a man on Minnesota Avenue this summer are among 13 people convicted this month on felony weapons charges in Erie County.

Robert Moore, 19, and Bernard Byrd, 22, each pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a weapon and robbery. The pair accosted a man at gunpoint on Minnesota Avenue July 28 and fired at least once while robbing him of his wallet and a necklace. The victim’s father, John R. Hunt, retrieved his own gun from the family home and shot the attackers, one in the chest, the other in the leg.

District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said Friday that he is waiting for the final report from a prosecutor before closing the case, but added that, given the circumstances of the incident and the guilty pleas of the two gunmen, it is “unlikely” Hunt will face charges.

Moore and Byrd, who entered their pleas on Wednesday, each face mandatory state prison sentences of 3½ years to 15 years, with sentencing set for Oct. 31.

In another case, Melvin Virgil, 22, and Khaled Yaghi, 30, pleaded guilty Thursday to criminal possession of a weapon for a Dec. 19, 2012 attack on a 53-year-old woman in South Buffalo. When the two reportedly attempted to either rob or abduct the woman near Richfield Avenue, she activated a panic alarm.

Police Officer Sean McCabe caught the fleeing suspects, one of whom carried a loaded sawed-off shotgun. Virgil has two prior robbery convictions, and Yaghi has been convicted of eight felonies in New York, North Carolina, and Texas, so they each face minimum prison sentences of 5 to 15 years. Sentencing is set for Nov. 7.

Two other men also face a minimum sentence of five years:

Pharoah Sanders, 37, discarded a loaded handgun as he fled from Buffalo police officers on March 10.

James Grey, 70, had hydrocodone pills and a loaded handgun in his vehicle when he was pulled over by New York State Troopers on Dec. 20, 2012. Grey was allowed to plea to attempted criminal possession of a weapon on the condition that he serve at least four years in state prison.

Also pleading guilty to criminal possession of a weapon and facing minimum sentences of 3½ years:

• Damon Erving, 24, who was found to have a loaded handgun March 29 when he became involved in a fight outside La Boom nightclub in the 3000 block of Main Street.

• Gary Redd, 27, who discarded a loaded weapon on April 13 in the vicinity of High Street and Jefferson Avenue as he fled from Buffalo police officers.

• Wilson Tardi, 38, who was caught shoplifting at the Target store on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga and later found to have a loaded weapon in his vehicle.

• Adam Marrero III, 24, who stole a loaded pistol from a truck console while working as a parking valet March 11 at South Buffalo Mercy Hospital.

• Michael Nance, 24, who tossed a loaded handgun as he fled from Buffalo police officers on Nov. 13.

• Damone Savage, 36, who cast aside a loaded handgun as he fled from Buffalo police officers in the vicinity of Delavan and Newburgh avenues on Jan. 18.

• Justin Smith, 27, who tried to discard a loaded handgun in the vicinity of Cornwall and East Ferry as he fled from Buffalo police officers March 6.

“The more you take shooters off the street, the more the shootings should go down,” Sedita said.

The number of shootings dropped 38 percent in Buffalo compared to the same period in 2012, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Sedita said his office has a no-plea-deal policy on cases involving loaded weapons, resulting in hundreds of felony convictions that sent offenders to state prison.

Sedita credited aggressive police work and the West Side gang crackdown by U.S Attorney William Hochul’s office with contributing to the “dramatic decrease” in shootings in Buffalo.