Two months after the owner of a popular Greek restaurant in Clarence was shot while closing up shop, state and local authorities received a tip on through Crime Stoppers about the whereabouts of the suspect – a former worker – in the shooting.
Tuesday, State Police and the Erie County District Attorney's office announced the arrest of Christopher Boyd, 36, an East Utica Street resident.
On Sept. 4, Alexander J. Pozantidis, 44, had just closed up at Zoe at 5711 Transit Road and was walking to the parking lot with a briefcase filled with cash from the day’s business when he was approached by a gunman, according to police. The gunman demanded the briefcase and Pozantidis complied, after which the gunman fired two shots that struck Pozantidis in the arm and fled with the money.
At the time of the shooting, Pozantidis’ wife was in the parking lot waiting for her husband when she heard the shots, ran to him, found him wounded and went into the restaurant to call 911 for help.
Pozantidis was taken to Erie County Medical Center with injuries that were not considered life-threatening although James Hall, commander of the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation based in Batavia, said at the time the restaurateur was "very lucky to be alive.”
"The robber made off with several thousands dollars of proceeds from the restaurant," said acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Tuesday. "Since then, investigators from the New York State Police have been diligently searching for the robber in order to apprehend him and bring him to justice."
Investigators with multiple State Police units, along with the Buffalo Police Department, U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force and State Parole pored over 285 leads in the case.
The volume of leads police investigators received in the case demonstrated the community's concern, New York State Police Maj. Steven A. Nigrelli said.
"It's rare in the Town of Clarence that we have an armed robbery and a suspect shot at," Nigrelli said. "You can imagine the volume of calls that we took."
Investigators did not give details of how they identified Boyd as a suspect but did say that Boyd had worked for Pozantidis at Zoe and likely knew the closing routine at the restaurant.
Then on Nov. 9, the police got a tip through Crime Stoppers that Boyd was seen entering a corner store in the City of Buffalo.
State Police entered the store on Grant Street in Black Rock and approached Boyd. They identified themselves as law enforcement officers, Nigrelli said.
Then, Boyd reached into his waistband.
The police tackled Boyd and got a loaded .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun away from him. No shots were fired. A report by Buffalo police indicated that the gun was loaded with 10 rounds.
Boyd was then handcuffed and taken into custody.
"Did he give up peacefully? Did he raise his hands," Nigrelli said at the press conference Tuesday. "No. He did what he knew well to do, and that was go into his waistband for a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. If it wasn't for the great restraint and the quick action from the State Police members involved, we would have had another tragic fatality in the city. Whether he was a suspect or not, the state police members prevented a possible tragedy for either police members or Mr. Boyd."
Boyd was initially being held on a parole violation but is now charged with two counts of first-degree attempted murder; first-degree robbery; first degree assault and a second-degree criminal weapons possession charge. He was expected to be arraigned in Clarence Town Court.
“I am grateful for the professional work of NYS Police and Parole who were able to apprehend the armed suspect without injury or loss of life,” said acting Erie County District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty, Jr. “The State Police investigators have been working around the clock to solve this case and an Erie County Grand Jury will hear the evidence in the near future.”