Falls man charged after explosives probe, evacuation

Photo by RobShotsAuthorities are still investigating an apartment inside this building in the 300 block of Cedar Avenue where police say possible explosive devices were found Wednesday. State police say it may take one or two days for the process to be completed to allow residents in the neighborhood who were evacuated Wednesday night to return to the area. 

A Niagara Falls man has been charged with assaulting a police officer and menacing and may face additional charges following a run-in on the thruway with state troopers and an investigation into explosives at his Cedar Avenue apartment on Wednesday. 

New York State Police late Wednesday announced charges against Jose M. Gandia, 47, of 320 Cedar Ave., Niagara Falls, whose apartment contained what police described as "possible explosive devices," prompting the evacuation of 19 residents living near the intersection of Cedar Avenue and Third Street Wednesday night. 

At about 8:40 a.m Wednesday, state troopers from Buffalo responded to a menacing complaint involving a shotgun. Troopers located a vehicle driven by Gandia along the state thruway in the Town of Hanover in Chautauqua County. Police said the suspect pulled over before emergency lights were activated, exited his his vehicle and approached the trooper which led to a physical confrontation. At that point, Gandia was taken into custody. Two troopers suffered minor injuries and were transported for treatment, police said. 

Inside the vehicle, troopers said they found several weapons and a suspicious package. The State Police Bomb Disposal Unit was called to the scene to assist with the investigation and determined that the suspicious package was a small functioning explosive device. All westbound and eastbound lanes of I-90 between exit 57 and exit 58 were closed until the scene was clear.

Later in the evening Wednesday, criminal investigators went to Gandia's Cedar Avenue apartment building as did the state troopers' Bomb Disposal Unit and members of the SWAT team. Authorities sent an unmanned drone into the second-floor apartment where police said possible explosives were located.

Amid public safety concerns and in an effort to clear the apartment building of all hazards, authorities evacuated residents living near Cedar Avenue and Third Street to Harry F. Abate Elementary School. 

The area of Third Street and Cedar Avenue remains closed until further notice. State troopers said the area may not be clear for the public to return for one or two days. 

The matter remains under investigation. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact New York State Troopers at 1-585-344-6200.

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