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Buffalo man pleads to manslaughter in killing of Niagara Street barber

One of the men charged in the shooting death of a Niagara Street barber in September pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to manslaughter in the first degree.

Speaking through an interpreter, Luis “Chino” Oliveras-Arvelo, 25, of Niagara Street, told State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns that he went into the barbershop at 577 Niagara St. on Sept. 1 and fatally shot Juan Ortiz Santiago. The victim was well-known in his West Side neighborhood and the late morning shooting shocked the community.

Ortiz-Santiago, 29, had moved to Buffalo from Puerto Rico in part to be closer to his brother, investigators have said. About 10 minutes before he was killed, he intervened in an argument between his brother and Oliveras-Arvelo and threatened Oliveras-Arvelo with a machete. Oliveras-Arvelo returned to the barbershop with a gun.

Oliveras-Arvelo initially was charged with second-degree murder. He left the area after the shooting and was arrested two weeks later in Ashtabula, Ohio.

Another man charged in the case, Victor Martinez, 29, of Busti Avenue, who was in the barbershop at the time of the shooting, is scheduled to be in court later this month.

In accepting the plea, the judge indicated he would consider a sentence of between 20 and 25 years when Oliveras-Arvelo returns to court May 2, but Burns also said he would allow the defense the opportunity to make a case for a lesser sentence. The full range of sentencing for first-degree manslaughter is five to 25 years.

Ortiz-Santiago was the father of three children. His girlfriend, Aixa Castro, was in court with other loved ones to witness the plea and, according to prosecutor Thomas M. Finnerty, they supported the disposition of the case.