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Dhane Smith breaks NLL season assist record as Bandits secure home playoff game

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The reigning NLL Cup champions will begin their 2024 postseason in Banditland next weekend. Buffalo won six of its final seven regular season games and secured the fourth seed in the league playoffs with its most lopsided victory of the year, 14-5 on Saturday night in Vegas.

Bandits star Dhane Smith recorded 12 points (10 assists, two goals) and became the first player in NLL history to notch more than 100 assists in a season. Josh Byrne had three goals and six assists to lift his league-leading point total to 135, one more than his teammate’s tally, and joining Smith as one of three players in league history to reach that mark in a single season.

Smith’s 102 assists this season exceeded his own record of 96 from a year ago, and he now has the three highest assist seasons on the NLL’s all-time list. Smith’s 137 points in 2016, when he scored a record 72 goals, remain NLL standard, and Byrne’s 135 points matched Smith’s second-best output from his 2022 MVP season.

The Bandits (11-7) will host the Georgia Swarm (10-8) in a quarterfinal playoff at 7 p.m. Saturday at KeyBank Center. Tickets are available here. Georgia won 9-8 in Buffalo on Dec. 29, during the Bandits’ 5-6 start to the season. The winner moves on to the best-of-three semifinal series.

***

Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.

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WNY cannabis dispensaries see green as residents celebrate 4/20

BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – Local cannabis dispensaries are seeing a lot of green on Saturday.

April 20 is known as 4/20, an unofficial holiday for those who partake in marijuana. News 4 stopped by Dank 716 on Main Street to see how the business is cashing in as people celebrate.

“We’ve come so far in this business specifically. It’s been very successful, more than we could imagine. It’s been lovely, I’m happy to be here and a part of what’s going on today,” Dank 716 manager Emma Kist said.

The cannabis dispensary opened its doors Saturday to an eager crowd of customers wanting to celebrate 4/20. Dank 716 offered discounts and handed out freebies to shoppers.

“A lot of people are very grateful to be able to shop safe local smart. It’s better than going somewhere where you’re not sure what you’re getting,” Kist said. “Everything is tested. You can scan a QR code and know everything in it, where it was grown and all that, very comforting.”

The cannabis industry is still sprouting, but a year ago Dank 716, or any recreational use dispensary had yet to open. Kist hopes to see more growth by April 20, 2025.

“I’m hoping for cheaper product honestly. The more that we get rolling, they’re able to bring the market down a little bit” she said. I know that farmers get taxed a lot, potency tax and all of that. If you go to other states they’re stuff is half the price of what we have here. They’re a lot farther in the process than New York state is.”

For anyone participating in 4/20, state police are making sure the roads are safe and encouraging people not to get behind the wheel under the influence.

“We understand that people are going to use items, whether it be alcohol, marijuana, today being the marijuana day, but the biggest thing, is don’t drive if that’s part of your plans. You put yourself at risk, anyone in your vehicle at risk, anyone on the road at risk,” Trooper James O’ Callaghan told News 4.

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Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.

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4 hospitalized, including 2 firefighters, after morning fire at Buffalo residence

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Four people were hospitalized, including two firefighters, after a Saturday morning fire at a residence on Jewett Avenue, Buffalo Fire officials announced.

Officials said the blaze began around 4 a.m. on the first floor of 294 Jewett Ave., which was occupied at the time. One resident was able to make it out safely, while another was rescued by firefighters from the porch roof.

Both residents were transported to ECMC to be treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries. The two firefighters were also taken to ECMC for treatment, according to officials.

Officials said the fire caused an estimated $300,000 in damage to the residence, and the Red Cross is assisting four adults. The blaze’s cause remains under investigation.

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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.

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Orchard Park man accused of DWI with 8-month-old infant in vehicle

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — An Orchard Park man was charged with DWI after he was allegedly found Friday unconscious at the wheel of a running vehicle with an 8-month-old child in the backseat, the Orchard Park Police Department announced.

Police said they received a call around 5:45 p.m. about an occupied vehicle with the engine running stopped in the middle of Hobby Lane. Officers allegedly found 34-year-old Thomas Gugino unconscious in the vehicle’s driver seat with an infant in the back.

Officers were able to wake Gugino and had him exit the vehicle when they allegedly noticed a white powdery substance on his nose. Gugino is alleged to have told officers the powder was from him snorting a Xanax, according to police.

Further investigation revealed that Gugino was allegedly under the influence of drugs, and he was promptly taken into custody. Police said he refused a blood test.

The 8-month-old child was unharmed and turned over to a relative.

Gugino was charged with:

Aggravated DWI with a child in the vehicle

DWI drugs

Criminal possession of a controlled substance

Endangering the welfare of a child

Stopping/standing upon highway

Gugino was arraigned and released on his own recognizance.

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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.

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Mother charged with kidnapping her 2 children who were reported missing

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The biological mother of two children who were reported missing Thursday in Buffalo before being safely located has been charged with kidnapping, the Buffalo Police Department announced.

Police said Jennie Johnson, 41, is facing a slew of charges after her two children, 8-year-old Edward Hale Jr. and 10-year-old Eiania Hale, were observed entering a tan Chevy Impala around 4 p.m. Thursday on Sunnyside Place.

The children’s legal guardian reported them missing around 6:30 p.m. Johnson has an order of protection against her that prevents her from making any contact with the children.

Video was released by police Friday that appeared to show the children entering the same Impala around 6:30 p.m. Thursday on Benzinger Street in the area where Johnson resides.

Buffalo police announced around 5 p.m. Friday that the children were located safe.

Johnson was charged with:

Second-degree kidnapping

Second-degree custodial interference

Two counts of endangering the welfare of a child

Two counts of second-degree criminal contempt

The investigation into the alleged kidnapping remains ongoing, and potential other arrests are pending, according to police.

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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.

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Experts dissect Pegulas reported Bills minority interest sale

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — On Friday the Pegulas, owners of the Buffalo Bills since 2014, have retained investment firm Allen & Company to help look into the sale of a non-controlling, minority interest in the Bills.

No other party is involved in the discussions and the Pegulas will still maintain majority control.

The news was first reported by the athletics’ Tim Graham, whose sources said the Pegulas are selling a 25% stake.

The Pegula family has owned the Bills since shortly after the death of original owner, Ralph Wilson.

Experts tell News 4 this won’t have an impact on Bills mafia.

“It’s one person and everyone who is a non-controlling owner has really no impact on the fans,” said host of the ‘Business of Sports’ podcast and former vice president of the Green Bay Packers, Andrew Brandt.

“This is something that’s happening in the boardroom that’s going be happening behind the curtain. Fans really shouldn’t have any sort of change in their gameday experience,” added staff writer for the Sports Business Journal, Chris Smith.

The Pegulas are looking to sell 25% of the team, but that number is fluid. That was first reported by the athletics’ Tim Graham.

The Bills in a statement said, “no investment would be possible without Terry Pegula and the Pegula family maintaining a controlling interest in the team,” and “their continued commitment to western New York, the new Highmark Stadium, and the fans remains unchanged.”

Brandt and Smith both say whoever buys in won’t have a big role in the team.

“I have a friend who was contacted by an investment group and was asked to join the investment group to buy the Washington commanders and he said to me, they want $200 million from me and all I really get out of this is good tickets. I said, ‘I think that’s right. I think that’s about the only benefit you really get until there’s an exit and your money will appreciate as the investment appreciates,’” said Brandt.

The Pegulas bought the Bills for $1.4 billion, an NFL record in 2014. Forbes’ latest estimate puts the Bills worth at $3.7 billion.

So what could a potential buyer for this minority interest look like?

“This idea, which may seem a little antiquated now, where you just have that one owner at the table and it’s just 32 owners and it’s this club and they refer to it as the membership. But now with these values so high, it’s hard to believe there’s going to be this level, this number of multi-billionaires able to buy these franchises,” continued Brandt.

“Sports ownership has always had a little bit of an ego component. I think that you have a lot of people who like the idea of being an owner. It’s sort of seen as this trophy asset. A small population of people would be willing to cut that kind of check. So, my guess is that this would likely be a collection of investors that come together,” concluded Smith.

Both the team and the Pegulas have no further comment on why they’re making this move.

Currently, the Pegulas are responsible for any additional costs for the $1.4 billion new stadium for the Bills, outside the $850 million in public funding.

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Dillon Morello is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has been part of the News 4 team since September of 2023. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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Lockport woman charged with murder

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Genesse County Sheriff’s Office has issued an update in the apparent homicide of 59-year-old Michael G. Poole of Olcott, N.Y.

Genesee County Sheriffs investigating “apparent homicide”

Kathryn A. Henry, 33, from Lockport, N.Y. was charged with second degree murder in her alleged involvement in the death of Poole. Officials say she attempted to hide his body after conspiring with another party to kill him.

Poole was missing out of Niagara County when his body was found on March 19 in the Town of Alabama, New York.

Along with second degree murder, Henry was also charged with the following:

concealment of a human corpse

fourth degree conspiracy

second degree conspiracy

first degree assault

tampering with physical evidence

first degree hindering prosecution

She is currently being held without bail. The other party is in custody and therefore, not considered a threat to the public.

The case remains under investigation.

Kayleigh Hunter-Gasperini joined the News 4 team in 2024 as a Digital Video Producer. She is a graduate of Chatham University.

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Jamestown woman with outstanding warrant charged with seventh degree possession

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Jamestown woman, known to have an outstanding warrant from the Jamestown police department, was charged with seventh degree possession of a controlled substance.

36-year-old Vanessa L. Figueredo was in a vehicle that was pulled over during a traffic stop at N. Main St and W 7th St. just before 1:40 a.m. Friday. Officials say she had an outstanding warrant for assault among multiple other charges.

Figueredo was taken into custody and allegedly tried to conceal a quantity of crack cocaine by discarding it near the vehicle.

She was charged with seventh degree possession of a controlled substance and tampering with physical evidence.

Kayleigh Hunter-Gasperini joined the News 4 team in 2024 as a Digital Video Producer. She is a graduate of Chatham University.

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Jamestown man charged with endangering welfare of child following SWAT search

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Jamestown man was arrested Friday following the discovery of narcotics and two children in an apartment on South Main Street, according to Jamestown police.

56-year-old Salvatore Russo and the children were found in a lower apartment during a search by the Jamestown Metro Drug Task Force and the Jamestown Police Department SWAT Team. It is alleged that detectives found drug paraphernalia and crack cocaine in the apartment.

Russo was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, and second degree criminally using drug paraphernalia. He remains held pending arraignment at the Jamestown City Jail.

Kayleigh Hunter-Gasperini joined the News 4 team in 2024 as a Digital Video Producer. She is a graduate of Chatham University.

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Three people charged following vehicle search in Jamestown

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — According to Jamestown police, three people were found to have drugs and drug paraphernalia in a vehicle during a traffic stop last month and were subsequently charged with criminal possession.

At 11 p.m. on March 28, Debra K. Leeper, 56, was pulled over in the area of Maple St and Everett Ave. Koran D. Leeper, 51, and Jordan E. Czerniak, 43, were in the car with her. Officers searching the vehicle say they found drugs “in plain view” on Koran’s person, while Czerniak was found in possession of meth and Debra was found in possession of cocaine.

It is alleged that a digital scale and packaging materials were also discovered in the vehicle.

The three were transported to the city jail where Debra was allegedly attempting to conceal 12.7 grams of fentanyl. Police say Koran was also concealing fentanyl.

The Leepers were charged with third degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, second degree criminally using drug paraphernalia and tampering with physical evidence.

Czerniak was charged with seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, fifth degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, and second degree criminally using drug paraphernalia.

They remain held pending arraignment.

Kayleigh Hunter-Gasperini joined the News 4 team in 2024 as a Digital Video Producer. She is a graduate of Chatham University.

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