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Buffalo teen missing from Bakos Boulevard

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo police are looking for help finding a missing teenager.

Alreka Crosby, 15, is missing from an address on Bakos Boulevard.

Alreka is 5’5″ and 100 lbs. She has black hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information on where she might be is asked to call police.

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Buffalo teen missing from Bakos Boulevard
Bills-themed Wordle spinoff ‘Hurdle’ is the game we need
Buffalo communities meet to discuss flooding
Higher gas prices puts the squeeze on businesses and school districts
Two Williamsville South students have died, according to an email from the school

Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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Buffalo communities meet to discuss flooding

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo and the Valley Community Association held a town meeting Monday to discuss recent major flooding issues.

Residents from the Old First Ward neighborhood and valley area have reported increased flooding in their basements and homes this season and said they are frustrated with how officials are handling flooding problems.

Officials said this area has experienced four of the most major wind storms to happen in the last 150 years, causing water from the Buffalo River to overflow. Residents have reported the floods have cost them thousands of dollars in damages to their homes. Many say the problem stems from sewer work.

Officials say they are hopeful that the new sewer program will decrease the amount of flooding.

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Higher gas prices puts the squeeze on businesses and school districts

WILLIAMSVILLE N.Y. (WIVB) – Rising gas prices are burning a hole in drivers’ wallets. From restaurants that deliver to school districts whose students rely on transportation, people everywhere are dealing with rising gas prices.

“From our end, we try to eat as much as we can, so to speak, because you can’t just keep changing your prices every single day,” said Paul Santora, who owns Santora’s Pizza Pub and Grill.

At Santora’s Pizza Pub and Grill in Williamsville, owner Paul Santora said almost every aspect of his business is getting more expensive, from food to labor costs, now the price of gas. His business chose not to hire drivers directly, but to offer delivery through the Toast Takeout App. He says it’s too much of a hassle, and as gas prices top four dollars a gallon, it would only get more difficult to find the workers.

“For delivery we use a third party because to get drivers, how do you even do that without charging a pretty substantial delivery fee for your guests because they’ve got costs associated with that? They’ve got gas, they’ve got maintenance on their car, you’ve got the employee itself that the restaurant is paying,” he said.

At La Nova Pizza, each location has its own delivery drivers. Those drivers take on the added expense of gas prices.

“They pay for it themselves, they work on tips and hourly wages so they’re eating the costs,” said La Nova VP Dante Todaro. “I’m sure people are tipping bigger to help out our delivery drivers cause they appreciate that. They need that.”

Todaro says they’re trying to hold off raising the costs of their pizza and wings for as long as they can.

“Maybe down the road if prices keep going up, $5 a gallon like we’re seeing in Cali right now, maybe we’ll have to go there but for right now, we’re holding steady,” he said.

Higher gas prices could create a problem down the road for school districts that fuel up school buses. Niagara Falls School Superintendent Mark Laurrie told News 4 there’s built-in wiggle room in the school budget, but that can only go so far.

“We think we have enough cushion there. It’s an unpredictable, somewhat volatile line at this point of time and budgeting, we have what we think is the right amount,” Laurrie said. “The more increases we see the more we’re going to have to look for other sources of funding to draw from to pay for that.”

Laurrie said it’s possible money for transportation will have to be taken from programs in the district. He’s hoping to avoid that but it all depends where gas prices stand by the end of the school year.

“The foreshadowing that these prices have certainly means that the bid price is going to go up significantly from where it was this time last year,” Laurrie said.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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Two Williamsville South students have died, according to an email from the school

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — Two members of the Williamsville South High School community, one female student and one male student, have died, according to an email from the school.

Both Williamsville South, as well as Mill Middle school, where the students went prior to attending South, sent emails to parents informing them of the situation.

Both emails said mental health professionals will be at the schools throughout the rest of the week to provide support to students and staff as needed.

“Children may have varied reactions to the death of a classmate. Your son or daughter may feel sad, scared, or confused about what happened. Please do not hesitate to reach out to someone here at South if you or someone in your family needs someone to speak to,” the schools said.

It is unclear how the students died. News 4 is electing not to name them at this time.

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Judge throws out charge against Buffalo protester

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Monday, a judge threw out a disorderly conduct charge against a man who was highly visible during local protests in the spring and summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd.

Myles Carter was charged after being arrested on the city’s East Side during a protest. Carter said he was peacefully protesting on Bailey Avenue when Buffalo Police officers rushed up and tackled him. The incident happened as Carter was speaking with a News 4 videographer with his back to the police line.

The video was played during Monday’s court hearing and can be seen above.

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Man shot in Niagara Falls, taken to ECMC, police investigating

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — Niagara Falls Police responded to Pine Avenue, near the intersection of 16th Street, for a report of a man shot Sunday around 7:30 p.m.

Officers found the victim, a 29-year-old, had been shot in the upper arm. He was standing outside 1615 Pine Ave., a banquet hall, when he was shot, but said he did not know who would shoot him or why. He was taken to ECMC for treatment of what NFPD said is a non-life threatening injury. Police said that at this point in the investigation, it appears the victim was the intended target of the shooting.

In addition to the victim, two rounds hit the building, where a memorial was being held. One bullet nearly hit a DJ and another hit a parked vehicle in front of the building.

Police have asked that anyone with information regarding the incident contact the department’s Criminal Investigation Division at (716) 286-4553 or their general information number at (716) 286-4711.

Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team sice 2021. See more of his work here.

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BPS addresses parental concerns after da Vinci High School shelter-in-place

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A representative of Buffalo Public Schools confirmed there was an incident at da Vinci High School last Thursday that resulted in a shelter-in-place, but a gun or weapon was not involved.

According to da Vinci’s principal, the four police officers present at the school did not report a weapon, nor did they express concern over the possibility of a weapon’s presence. Parental concerns were reportedly addressed, as they were assured no gun or weapon was involved in the incident.

“During the incident, the principal placed the school on a ‘shelter in place’ status,” the statement said. “In the future, all ‘shelter in place’ situations and an explanation of the incident will be communicated by the principal to the school community.”

Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team sice 2021. See more of his work here.

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Bills-themed Wordle spinoff ‘Hurdle’ is the game we need

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – If you’re looking for a way to pass the time until Bills season rolls back around, “Hurdle” might be the game for you.

Modeled after Wordle, the internet’s ubiquitous word game known for its colorful boxes and once-a-day puzzles, Hurdle lets fans try their hand at decoding a five-letter word that is always connected to Buffalo Bills football.

Wordle bought by The New York Times Company for ‘low-seven figures’

Hans Hansen, a 30-year-old Bills fan and software engineer from outside of Albany, has been surprised by popularity of the game since launching it last Friday.

“I’m kind of blown away by how many people liked it,” Hansen told News 4. “I was monitoring the traffic on the site, I thought maybe I’d get 250 people to do it in total. In the first day, there was more than 1,300. There was a pretty good amount of people.”

Much like Wordle, the game uses colors as feedback to let you know if you’re getting warmer. Red means you found a letter from the word, but it’s in the wrong spot. Blue means you have the letter in its proper position. Once you solve the puzzle, you can share your result with colored squares, just like the original.

Worldle, a new country-guessing game, offers frustrating fun for geography buffs

“It’s all Bills words, where Wordle is just all words,” Hansen said. “There’s a lot of names of players that are, luckily, five letters. There’s a lot of football terminology that’s five letters, some Buffalo-specific things that are five letters.”

The game’s first answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, was “Allen.” The logo for the game is quarterback Josh Allen hurdling over a defender. Other answers so far were “shout” for the Bills’ “Shout” song; “train” for the train horn played in the stadium on third downs; and, on seven-letter Sunday — a new twist from Hansen — the answer was “Buffalo.”

Hansen, who also helps manage an Albany-area Bills Backers bar at McGeary’s Irish Pub, said he built the game in about a week in his spare time. Believe it or not, he isn’t a huge Wordle player himself, though he called the game a “genius” idea. He has many friends who play.

“From a pure development perspective, that’s what I was interested in,” Hansen said. “Could I develop it? Could I rewrite his code without looking at his code at all? I was able to – and what better thing to do than convert a viral game into a Bills game?”

Fans react to huge Bills win, ‘Hurdle Ave’ shirt commemorates Allen’s memorable play

Hansen said he built a few Easter eggs into the game that fans will have fun finding. For example: Hurdle won’t let you enter the five-letter surname of a certain Patriots legend.

Typing in B-R-A-D-Y brings up an error message.

“Brady? Really? No,” the site says.

The game won’t let you enter “ranch,” either. 

“As all people that associate with Buffalo know, ranch is a big no-no,” Hansen said. “Just like it is on your wings, it should not be in Hurdle either.”

Hansen already has more than 150 words in the bank for future games, but said his Twitter DMs are open if you’d like to suggest a specific word. The game resets nightly at 7 p.m.

“I don’t expect traffic to exist there forever,” Hansen said. “I build all these projects just because I enjoy doing them. It’s not going anywhere. I’m going to keep it up, keep the words there. If people keep playing it, that’d be wonderful.”

Click here to play Hurdle

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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here.

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James Pugh testifies in attempt to clear his name of 1994 murder conviction

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — A man who’s served decades for a murder he says he didn’t commit testified in court Monday in hopes of clearing his name.

James Pugh and Brian Scott Lorenz were convicted of killing Deborah Meindl in Tonawanda in 1993.

This is the first time Pugh has testified. He didn’t take the stand during the original trial in 1993.

He’s maintained his innocence since the beginning and served more than 26 years in prison before being paroled in 2019.

“In some ways this is the most important day of Jimmy Pugh’s life,” said his attorney, Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma.

Pugh maintains he never knew Meindl or her family, let alone killed her.

During Monday’s 440 hearing he testified he was arrested for burglary a few months after Meindl was killed and said Lorenz implicated him in the murder to police.

Pugh said he then made up statements to implicate Lorenz.

“He was a young man who foolishly went along with that the day of his arrest but quickly came down to earth and stopped doing that,” said Margulis-Ohnuma.

Pugh also testified about offers made to him to implicate Meindl’s husband in exchange for a shorter sentence.

“At every turn the DA gave him a chance to lie and reduce his sentencing exposure and get out of prison earlier and at every turn he didn’t do that and the only reason he had not to do that was because he would’ve had to perjure himself to go along with what the DA was asking for.”

Pugh’s attorney wanted to play a clip from the 1994 sentencing, the only time Pugh has spoken in court before Monday.

The judge denied the request, but News 4 pulled the clip from our archives, in which Pugh said:

“I know nothing of this crime, I know nothing about the husband, I don’t know this family and I’m not a murderer. Whoever went to this house went there for one reason that was to kill somebody, it’s not a burglary gone bad and they know it because if it was why would they be asking me if I would implicate the husband.”

“The day of his sentencing they were gonna give him 10 more years of his life back but he had to implicate the husband he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t do it because it would’ve been false,” said Margulis-Ohnuma.

The defense is asking the judge to vacate the conviction based on improved DNA testing which excludes any traces of Pugh or Lorenz at the murder scene.

Defense attorneys also claim they have evidence that Richard Matt killed Meindl.

Matt was shot to death by police in 2015 after escaping Clinton Correctional Facility where he was being held for murder.

Kayla Green is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.

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Buffalo Behind the Scenes: Ford Gum & Machine Co.

AKRON, N.Y. (WIVB) — For more than 100 years, Western New York has been the site of Ford Gum & Machine Co. Originally founded in 1913, the factory calls Akron its home.

“What’s fun is it’s gum. It’s going to a fun activity when it leaves here,” said director of operations Mark Wagner.

The company’s founder, Ford Mason, first ventured into the gumball machine business more than a century ago.

“He went to a convention in New York City at the Flatiron building and saw these gumball machines and though, ‘I can make a living doing that.’ So he actually bought a bunch of gumball machines, set them around Western New York, found they weren’t working that well. They took your money more than they gave you the products,” said CFO John Kennelly. “So he reinvented the machine and came up with the Ford Gum Machine.”

Kennelly said Mason did this until the 1920s, when he decided there was more money to be made in the gumballs than the actual machines.

“He learned how to make gum and started Ford Gum and Machine Company,” Kennelly said.

Since then, the company has made some big name items – in 2010, the company took over operations of Big League Chew.

“A typical production day we produce about 80,000 pouches of the Big League Chew shredded gum, and about 6,000 pound of the Big League Chew ball gum,” Wagner said.

At some point this year, Ford Gum will package its one-billionth pouch of Big League Chew.

“The part I find neat about it is it’s made in the USA,” Wagner said. “Right here in Akron.”

But that’s not the only thing the company is known for. When you see a gumball, there’s a pretty good chance it was made right here in Western New York.

That’s because Ford Gum and Machine Company is the only gumball manufacturer in the U.S.

“When you see Dubble Bubble, it’s branded as America’s gumball. It’s North America’s gumball, but it’s not the USA,” Kennelly said. “We’re the only one that’s USA.”

Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.

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