CHEEKTOWAGA — Law enforcement officials think a pair of robbery suspects arrested in Cheektowaga may be the same men who pulled off a string of robberies recently in Niagara County.
Timothy Reinard, 45, of Harvey Avenue, Lockport, and Anderson Arroyo, 29, of Amherst, are in Cheektowaga Police Department custody and are charged with first-degree robbery, criminal use of a firearm, criminal possession of stolen property, and criminal possession of a weapon, after a Thursday morning robbery at a NOCO station on Transit Road.
The suspects were wearing hoods and bandanas and displayed a handgun while demanding the gas station clerk get down on the floor. They then fled.
It's a similar scenario that has played out over a dozen times since a Middleport 7-Eleven was robbed Dec. 24.
The robbery on Thursday ended much differently, though. Shortly after it was called in to police, Cheektowaga officers stopped a vehicle that ran a red light at the Losson Road and Towers Boulevard intersection. Clothes inside the vehicle matched the description given by a witness at the NOCO station.
Niagara County Sheriff Jim Voutour said as of Thursday the primary focus was on the two or three Cheektowaga cases that exist, but he's confident that Reinard and Arroyo are the pair he and other Niagara County law enforcement agencies have been looking for.
"We like these guys for ours, too," the sheriff said. "It seems like there's a strong case that they're involved in all off them."
Voutour backed off the "all of them" comment when asked about potential copycat robberies that may have occurred, however.
"After we got hit three or four times in a row, we said, 'man, we gotta look out for copycats, now.'" he said. "I think we probably have a couple outliers out there, but we're not sure until we get our crack at these guys."
In all, Voutour said, there have been 18 to 20 robberies in Erie and Niagara counties since the Christmas Eve robbery in Middleport.
The possibility of copycat robberies makes it that much more important that investigators do their jobs correctly, he added.
"It's painstaking. We gotta look at every case individually."
The investigation may have been helped with a search warrant executed at Reinard's Harvey Avenue home on Thursday, according to Lockport Police Chief Larry Eggert.
"We cooperated with the Cheektowaga PD in executing a search warrant on the house. ... Some potential evidence was recovered," he said. "We did take some items from the house that we're going to examine."
Eggert concurred with Voutour's assessment of potential copycats, but said that oftentimes when there's a string of robberies like there has been, the copycats quit as soon as someone is arrested.
"Generally, what you see is when you make an arrest or a couple arrests, the copycats tend to stop," Eggert said.
Both lawmen credited the work of the Cheektowaga police and stressed that investigation of the robberies has been a multi-agency effort from the beginning.
"Cheektowaga caught 'em. They did a great job. It was a patrolman on a traffic stop that became suspicious of these guys," Voutour said.
Cheektowaga Police Department has been a great host to other agencies since the early morning arrest, he added.
For now, Eggert said, police cannot say with certainty whether Reinard and Arroyo were responsible for any of the robberies in Niagara County. But he echoed Voutour's confidence that they were.
"It's going to be a pretty long investigation to determine whether these guys are our guys, but we're operating under the premise that they are. I guess we'll see in the next day or so what comes out of it," he said.