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Suspect in Thruway scare, with explosives, being investigated

In this photo from a New York State Thruway Authority camera, vehicles are diverted off the highway at Exit 58 near Silver Creek.

A Niagara Falls man, who was stopped Wednesday morning near the Silver Creek exit, is now the suspect of a New York State Police investigation after his vehicle and home were found with weapons and explosives.

The incident began before 9 a.m. when troopers responded to a menacing complaint involving a shotgun. Troopers located the vehicle in question near mile marker 455.1 westbound, in the town of Hanover, Chautauqua County.

The suspect pulled over before emergency lights were activated. He exited his his vehicle and approached the Trooper which led to a physical confrontation.

The suspect was taken into custody and identified as Jose M. Gandia, 47 of 320 Cedar Ave. Two troopers suffered minor injuries and were transported for treatment.

Several weapons and a suspicious package were located in the vehicle. The State Police Bomb Disposal Unit were called to the scene to assist with the investigation. The suspicious package was a small functioning explosive device. All westbound and eastbound lanes of Interstate 90 between exit 57 and exit 58 were closed until the scene was clear.

Later that day, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation located Gandia’s residence in the city of Niagara Falls. The New York State Police Bomb Disposal Unit assisted by Special Operations Response Team sent an Unmanned Aerial System into the residence and located possible explosives. Cedar Avenue and Third Street were evacuated for safety concerns until Gandia’s residence was cleared of all hazards to the public.

State Police said this is a continuing criminal investigation. The area of Third Street and Cedar Avenue will be closed to the public until further notice, possibly one or two days.

The City of Niagara Falls Police Department and the New York state Park Police are assisting in this incident.

American Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers provided immediate emergency assistance for the 33 people from 12 households following the evacuation in Niagara Falls Wednesday evening. Red Cross assistance typically includes funding for temporary housing, food and clothing as needed, and specially-trained Disaster Mental Health volunteers are available to help those affected deal with the emotional aspect of their disaster. Affected families will meet with caseworkers in the coming days to work on a long-term recovery plan.

Volunteers followed COVID-19 protocols, including screening and social distancing, while meeting with families to determine their immediate emergency needs.

Anyone with information is to contact the State Police at 585-344-6200.

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