Authorities evacuated a Niagara Falls neighborhood Wednesday after suspected explosives were found in the home of a man arrested earlier in the day on the Thruway near Silver Creek, State Police reported.
The State Police Bomb Disposal Unit, assisted by the Special Operations Response Team, sent a drone aircraft into the home of Jose M. Gandia, 47, in the 300 block of Cedar Avenue and discovered possible explosives.
"On the initial approach to that residence, we observed what appeared to be additional explosive devices within that residence," Maj. Jim Hall of the State Police said at a news conference Wednesday night, noting that the visual of the devices was made via drone.
Shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday, the house was cleared of explosives. However, Cedar Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets remained closed while state police forensic investigators processed the scene, troopers said.
Troop A- Bomb Disposal Unit still actively working on Cedar Ave. residents I. The area has been evacuated. pic.twitter.com/JVYnBO3OnO
— NewYorkStatePolice (@nyspolice) March 26, 2020
Hall confirmed Wednesday night that 19 people had been evacuated to Harry F. Abate Elementary School less than a mile away. The Western New York chapter of the American Red Cross said that its Disaster Action Team volunteers provided immediate emergency assistance for 33 people from 12 households following the evacuation.
"Public safety is always our biggest concern," Hall said. "In a situation like this, we want to make sure everything in that house is clear before we start to allow people to go back into the residences."
Gandia was arrested after a confrontation on the Thruway near mile marker 455.1 westbound with troopers responding to a complaint at about 8:40 a.m. about a menacing suspect pointing a shotgun at another individual, State Police said. Two troopers sustained injuries in the confrontation. One suffered a broken hand, the other had lacerations.
A pipe bomb, two guns and a ballistic vest were found in Gandia’s pickup truck, troopers reported. After the arrest, a search warrant was obtained for Gandia's home.
Hall said that Gandia is facing charges of menacing and assault of a police officer in addition to other criminal and traffic charges connected with the morning incident on the Thruway.
All lanes of the Thruway between Hamburg and Silver Creek were closed for more than two hours during the confrontation and arrest.
Troop A- Evacuation in progress on Cedar Ave & Third St. in the city of Niagara Falls as a precaution in an ongoing investigation. SP are working with Niagara Falls PD & NCSO at this time
— NewYorkStatePolice (@nyspolice) March 25, 2020