Dozens of law enforcement officers were on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation for about four hours this afternoon to help keep the peace while two factions of the same family tried to resolve an ownership dispute over Arrowhawk Smoke Shop.
Tom Peters (top photo), who said he's been managing the business recently for his family, said members of the Genesee County Sheriff's Office showed up this morning with a court order giving his niece, Corrine Thomas, control of the property.
The order was signed by Judge Robert C. Noonan, Peters said, but Peters said Noonan had no jurisdiction of the land of his nation.
This is reservation land and any court order from any judge is not valid out here," Peters said. "He has no right to be here. He doesn't have jurisdiction here."
There's a bit of a contradiction over how the dispute was resolved for the time being today. Peters said a higher court issued a stay of Noonan's order, but Chief Deputy Gordon Dibble said he was unaware of any such order. He said the Tonawanda chiefs brokered a deal to take control of the property until the issue can be resolved.
There were about 10 members of the Sheriff's Office on scene and more than two dozen troopers, including at least two K-9 units, which arrived to provide back up.
Asked if this was a typical response, Dibble said, "Is this typical? This isn't a typical situation. I've never seen a situation like this in my 38 years, so I wouldn't call it typical. I don't know that there is such a thing as a typical police response. We respond and do what we have to do for the safety of the people, and I think we were successful. Nobody got hurt."
Dibble and about 10 members of the Sheriff's Office delivered the court order from Noonan this morning about 7:30. According to Dibble, the order gave Thomas the right to inventory the property and its contents.
Peters said he was evicted from his apartment above the restaurant on the property.
The dispute is about three years old, Peters said, going back to the death of his brother. His brother left a will and Peters said there are provisions in the law that contradict tribal law. He said it gave away property that belongs to the Tonawanda nation.
It's unclear at what point Thomas became the estate's executor, but it was apparently because she has been named executor that she was there this morning.
Once the order was delivered, the Sheriff's personnel left the reservation, then early this afternoon there was a small fire at the location and Dibble said there were "threats made."
That brought deputies back to the scene and a host of troopers to provide back-up.
Dozens of residents of the nation mingled in the surrounding area, along with some customers of the nearby smoke shops and gas stations, and watched as a group of chiefs and others sat on chairs and talked outside the Arrowhawk.
At around 4 p.m., Thomas and her supporters -- Peters called them "warriors" and "mercenaries" hired by Thomas -- left.
Dibble and Peters may not agree how the settlement came about, but they both agree the matter is now in the hands of the chiefs. Peters said he believes federal courts will overturn Noonan's order. In the meantime, it's unclear if the Arrowhawk will reopen before the dispute is resolved.
Dibble said the chiefs will post guards on the property.
A Pembroke grandmother is the focal point of a multi-agency investigation into drug dealing in WNY, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced in Buffalo today.
Geraldine Horsefall is accused of obtaining hydrocodone pills from various individuals -- many of whom were arrested as part of the drug sweep -- and selling them to residents on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation and in Erie and Niagara counties.
She's also accused of buying and selling cocaine as part of an organization that moved a large quantity of the narcotic.
The arrests were announced as part of the conclusion of an 18-month investigation called Operation Lockport, which led to 160 combined criminal counts against 25 people. The exact list of charges were not released.
At the press conference today, Schneiderman described Horsefall as a linchpin in the operation who allegedly enlisted the aid of her children and brought her grandchildren along while allegedly selling drugs.
“You know when someone brings small children along with them to make themselves a more effective drug dealer, that’s about as low as you can get," Schneiderman said.
The arrest of Horsefall, 59, and her alleged accomplices were announced along with several other arrests in a second cocaine dealing investigation in Erie and Niagara counties
The other investigation also led to the discovery of bi-monthly cockfights on an Indian reservation in Niagara County.
“Drug trafficking rings like these infect our neighborhoods and tear apart our communities,” Schneiderman said. “Today’s arrests strike a significant blow to the drug trade across Western New York. My office, with our strong collaboration with law enforcement partners, will fight to make our communities safer by rooting out large-scale narcotics trafficking networks.”
Local law enforcement agents from Erie, Niagara and Genesee counties -- along with members of the Genesee County Local Drug Enforcement Task Force, State Police and DEA -- all participated in the investigation, which included undercover operations, GPS tracking devices and hundreds of hours of covert surveillance.
“It is through the combined efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement that these dangerous individuals are now off our streets and out of our communities,” NYSP Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said. “We worked together identifying these dealers, pinpointing their drug activity and shutting down their enterprises.
Other Genesee County residents charged with crimes as a result of the investigation are: Rylyn Horsefall, 33, of Pembroke; Lori Schwab, 33, of Corfu; and Eric Parker, 38, of Pembroke.
Also arrested was 42-year-old Michelle King, of Akron, reportedly a nurse in a doctor's office who allegedly helped supply controlled substances to Horsefall.
Operation Lockport led to the seizure of approximately two kilograms of cocaine and more than $60,000 in cash, officials said.
Members of the alleged narcotics ring would transport cocaine from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to WNY, authorities said.
Investigators believe that the suspects would pack cocaine into the soles and heels of doctored pairs of shoes and then cut up the shoes once in Buffalo. The shoes, along with box cutters, razor blades and utility knives, were allegedly found in a vehicle belonging to Vincent Mundy, of Fort Lauderdale, who was arrested this morning.
DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt said Operation Lockport totally dismantled a complete drug-dealing operation.
"Today's arrests have put an end to their drug network, arresting crew members at all levels -- those who sold crack cocaine and cocaine on the streets, to the resellers, to the suppliers who transported the drugs from Florida to Buffalo concealed in soles of shoes," Hunt said. "I commend the dedication and teamwork of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners throughout this investigation."
A 52-year-old Oakfield resident who was involved in a motorcycle accident on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation on Sunday night was treated and released after being flown by Mercy Flight to ECMC.
Louis M. Biro, of East Shelby Road, was driving a 2011 Honda east on Bloomingdale Road when he allegedly failed to stop at a stop sign at Reuban Road and continued east into the Arrowhawk Smoke Shop parking lot. The Honda continued through the parking lot and struck a dirt embankment and a pile of cut trees.
The accident was reported at 10:14 p.m.
Charges are pending, according to the accident report.
The accident was investigated by Deputy James Diehl.
Heather M. Ground, 27, of Meadville Road, Tonawanda Indian Reservation, and Casey A. Jonathan, 35, of Skye Road, Tonawanda Indian Reservation, are charged with harassment, 2nd. Ground and Jonathan allegedly became involved in a dispute during a ceremony at the Longhouse on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation. Ground allegedly pushed and then punched Jonathan. A few minutes later, Jonathan allegedly punched Ground in the mouth.
Shawn C. Wetmore, 40, of 38 Maple St., Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child, harassment, 2nd, and criminal mischief, 4th. During a fight, Wetmore allegedly kicked a door open, which was close to an infant. He allegedly threw an item at another person. Wetmore was jailed on $5,000 bail.
Carrie Q. Blunt, 20, of 24 Thomas Ave., Batavia, is charged with false personation. Blunt was arrested on a bench warrant during an unrelated investigation.
Keith Joseph Jackson, 18, of Slusser Road, Batavia, is charged with possession/consumption of alcohol under age 21. Also charged, Corey Jarome Mooney, 19, of Lockport Road, Oakfield, and a 17-year-old female resident of State Street, Batavia. The trio was allegedly at an underage drinking party at 12:04 a.m., Saturday, on Orchard Street in Oakfield. The case was investigated by Deputy Patrick Reeves and Deputy Matthew Fleming.
Devine Raheem Worthy, 28, of Congress Street, Buffalo, was arrested on a bench warrant for alleged failure to pay restitution.
A two-car accident has been reported at 986 Bloomingdale Road, Tonawanda Indian Reservation, in front of The Rez smoke shop.
One person has a facial injury.
Alabama Fire Department, Mercy EMS responding.
The roadway is blocked.
UPDATE 1:13 p.m.: All the patients are in the restaurant. There are at least two, maybe three.
UPDATE 1:44 p.m. (Billie): One person suffered a leg injury, possibly a fracture. One patient was transported to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital. Not sure of the destination, if any, of others. Alabama went back into service at 1:37 p.m.
Tiffany E. Greiner, 22, of Akron, was arrested in July on a single count of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance analog intended for human consumption.
Joseph LaTona, her attorney, said this morning that the charges were dismissed because a witness was out of town and not available for a scheduled court appearance. The prosecution didn't want to adjourn the case, so LaTona moved to dismiss the charges and the judge granted the request.
Federal prosecutors still have the option to take the case to a grand jury and seek an indictment.
Barbara Burns, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Western New York, declined comment on the dismissal, but said authorities continue to investigate the case related to the Tonawanda raids. She said authorities continue to seek witnesses or other people with information and encouraged members of the public to come forward with any information they might have related to the alleged sale of synthetic drugs at the reservation.
A property damage accident is reported on Sand Hill Road, on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation. The driver of the vehicle which reportedly struck the involved property fled northbound in a green Chevy Astro van. But the driver left his or her passenger at the scene.
An employee of a smoke shop on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation was charged in federal court today for allegedly selling synthetic marijuana and bath salts.
Tiffany E. Greiner, 22, of Akron, was arraigned in federal court in Buffalo on a single count of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance analog intended for human consumption.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison or a $1 million fine or both.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Greiner was employed as a sales clert at the Sacajawea Smoke Shop in Basom.