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For many, the blizzard that recently struck Buffalo, burying the city in 43 inches of snow and leaving tens of thousands without power, meant tragedy, particularly for the families of the 27 who perished in freezing whiteout conditions. For others, the wicked storm has meant opportunity.
Stores have been ransacked, businesses looted, and homes burgled by roving looters whom Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has called the “lowest of the low.”
What are the details?
Since the storm hit in full force on Friday, police have been focused on saving lives, recovering the bodies of victims, and tackling the immobilizing snow, suggested Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.
Looters evidently seized upon the distraction provided by the deadly blizzard, which Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz called the “worst storm probably in our lifetime.”
Numerous videos of the looters’ alleged exploits have been shared to social media.
Video has been released of the Nickel City Liquor store’s break-in. The owner reportedly noted that the looters responsible have “cheap and bad taste.”
In another video shared to Twitter, looters weighed down with ill-gotten goods can be seen pouring out of a Family Dollar store:
A 7-Eleven convenience store was smashed, stripped of its products, and unwittingly turned into a bird sanctuary:
Looters also reportedly raided Rick’s Sports Apparel, smashing its windows and emptying it of items of value.
Patrick Cichocki, one of the owners of Camellia Meats, told WGRZ that looters were “breaking into the Rent to Own, they’re taking TV sets.”
An employee at Camellia Meats said, “It’s heartbreaking. When this is all over the community will have nowhere to go to get the things they need.”
Pastor Al Robinson of the Spirit of Truth Urban Ministry confirmed the community impact of this thievery, telling WKBW that the very businesses vulnerable families rely upon have been pillaged, leaving them in the lurch.
“These people, I just don’t understand why they just don’t care about their neighbor,” said Robinson.
Police began resuming their normal duties on Monday, indicated Gramaglia, although search and rescue operations will continue.
“We have made a few arrests. We have intervened in some of those. We’ve assisted with at least one location that I am aware of in getting a store boarded up, so our officers are out there,” said Gramaglia.
BPD spokesman Mike DeGeorge noted that police will be monitoring social media and “reviewing video and posts in an effort to make arrests.”
Buffalo’s mayor minced no words when calling out those responsible.
Brown said, “People who are out looting when people are losing their lives in this harsh winter storm, it’s just absolutely reprehensible. I don’t know how these people can even live with themselves, how they can look at themselves in the mirror.”
Brown noted that the “people taking advantage of a natural disaster to take what they want from retailers” are “also potentially putting those services at risk in the communities where they are looting.”
According to Daniel Neaverth Jr., commissioner of the county’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, the looting of gas stations has left a number of them inoperable. As a result, the fueling pumps are not working and first responders will be unable to fuel up, reported the Buffalo News.
“So that ambulance that is maybe just going to go a block to refuel now has to go to a facility sometimes outside of the city of Buffalo to be refueled,” said Neaverth.
Poloncarz said he was “absolutely devastated to see that many deaths and then to find out that there’s looting going on in our community at the same time we’re still recovering bodies is just horrible.”
Whereas the mayor and other community leaders have denounced the looters, Advocates for Justice attorney Nate McMurray suggested that those questioning the motives and ethics of the looters destroying local businesses should “shut up,” intimating that the rampant theft of nonessential items is socio-economically justifiable.
Mayor Brown made clear that the criminal elements taking advantage of the tragedy that has befallen Buffalo are “not looting food and medicines, they’re just looting items that they want so these aren’t even people in distress; these are people that are taking advantage of a natural disaster.”
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