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Amherst man pleads guilty in hit-and-run accident that injured teen

An Amherst driver who hit a 16-year-old youth on Main Street in North Buffalo, then sped away, leaving the boy lying in the road with a critical head injury, has admitted his role in the hit-and-run.

Kevin Ford, a 23-year-old Buffalo garbage collector on disability, pleaded guilty as charged Friday in Erie County Court to leaving the scene of a serious physical injury accident and fourth-degree insurance fraud, according to District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.

The victim, Devaughn Moore, was walking home Feb. 3 after filling out a job application to work in a coffee shop at Erie County Medical Center when the car struck him as he was crossing Main Street at Morris Avenue at about 7:30 p.m. The driver sped away.

Devaughn, a student at Lafayette High School, was hospitalized for four weeks and has been learning how to walk again, according to his family.

The day after Devaughn was released from Women & Children’s Hospital, police arrested Ford following an extensive investigation by police agencies in Buffalo, Amherst and Niagara Falls to find the driver.

Police said that hours after the hit-and-run, Ford drove to a field off Ninth Street in Niagara Falls, where the car was set on fire. He then reported the vehicle had been stolen, and he filed a false insurance claim one week later, prosecutors said.

The key piece of evidence in finding the vehicle was the shell of a shattered gray side-view mirror recovered from the scene, according to investigators in the Buffalo Police Department’s Accident Investigation Unit.

They sought assistance from Amherst Senior Accident Investigator Scott A. Lawida, who is regarded as an expert in broken auto parts recovered from hit-and-run scenes.

Lawida determined that the mirror was from the passenger side of a 2006 Chevy Impala. Police then searched the state Department of Motor Vehicles’ computer database and came up with more than 500 cars that fit that description in Erie County.

The accident investigators started visiting the addresses where the cars were registered, each time inspecting the vehicles for damage and a replacement side-view mirror.

Investigators caught a break when they went to an address on Princeton Avenue in Amherst near the Buffalo border and ran a license plate check on the vehicle registered there. A report came back that it had been reported stolen the same night as the hit-and-run.

The torched car was located at an insurance impound yard, with the side-view mirror missing and damage to the right front fender.

With evidence pointing to Ford, investigators brought him to Buffalo Police Headquarters for questioning, and he eventually admitted that he was the driver, according to police.

Ford faces a maximum prison term of eight years when he is sentenced July 17 by Judge Michael F. Pietruszka.

Sedita cited the work of Assistant District Attorney Kelley A. Omel, chief of the Vehicular Crimes Bureau, and the efforts of the Buffalo Police Accident Investigation Unit and his office’s confidential criminal investigators.

“Because of their dedication and professionalism, an unscrupulous coward was brought to justice,” he said.