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Falls man who forced Thruway closure charged with possessing bombs

STAFF REPORTS


BUFFALO -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Jose M. Gandia, 47, of Niagara Falls, was charged by complaint with unlawful possession of a destructive device and unlawful possession of a shortened shotgun. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth T. Molisani, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, on March 25, 2020, the New York State Police received a report of an individual pointing a shotgun with a red laser out of a red pickup truck on the New York State Thruway. A trooper located the vehicle stopped behind the traffic cones of an active work zone near the Town of Hanover. The trooper approached the vehicle and ordered the driver, later identified at the defendant, to exit. As the trooper attempted to handcuff Gandia, he resisted and a fight ensued. As the trooper struggled with the defendant, a second trooper arrived and assisted in handcuffing Gandia. The trooper who initially responded to the call suffered a broken hand in the altercation. A knife was found in the defendant’s pocket, and a second one was located on the ground next to the red pickup.

Following Gandia’s arrest, a trooper observed a sawed-off shotgun and a rifle in the passenger seat of the red pickup, as well as a ballistic vest and another knife. Another ballistic vest and an item that appeared to be a pipe bomb were then located in the rear of the vehicle. Troopers backed away from the vehicle, secured the scene, and called explosive specialists to the scene. The incident resulted in the closure of the westbound Interstate 90 of the New York State Thruway.

A New York State Police Bomb Technician examined the device and confirmed that the device, a pipe bomb, appeared to be a functional destructive device. During the examination of the device, the bomb technician utilized a “Disruptor,” a tool used to knock off the end cap of the device in an attempt to disassemble and disable the device remotely. During this procedure the device detonated.

Following the incident on the Thruway, investigators executed a search warrant at Gandia’s Cedar Street residence in Niagara Falls. They recovered nine suspected destructive devices, all appeared to be of similar construction as the device recovered from the defendant’s vehicle. Five of the suspected devices were attached to two separate propane tanks. Two of the devices were placed near the front entrance of the residence and two additional devices were placed near the rear entrance; all four devices were rigged to detonate.

“Amidst the pandemic, the brave men and women of law enforcement continue to risk life and limb to keep our communities safe,” said U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “With knives, guns, and 10 bombs—one of which was detonated, and nine of which were inside a house located in a crowded residential area—the danger this individual presented cannot be overstated. As our tremendous medical professionals—and each of us—focus efforts on doing everything possible to defeat the invisible enemy, our law enforcement professionals remain vigilant to ensure that our fight may continue and that the enemies amongst us can do us no harm. All of our protectors are worthy of our praise and gratitude.”

The complaint is the result of an investigation by the New York State Police, under the direction of Major James Hall; the Niagara Falls Police Department, under the direction of Superintendent Thomas Licata;  the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge John B. Devito, New York Field Division; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Buffalo Division, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert; and the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of District Attorney Patrick Swanson.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.


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