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December 28, 2011 - 8:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

Calling it "Grace for Grace," a Walmart employee contacted The Batavian and said employees have set up a clear box at the customer service desk for well-wishers to drop off get-well cards for Grace Suozzi.

Cards can also be mailed to Grace Suozzi at the store, Walmart, 4133 Veterans Memorial Drive, Batavia, NY 14020


December 27, 2011 - 4:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

The 26-year-old Batavia resident accused of hitting a Walmart employee on Christmas Eve, yelled several obscenities at the 70-year-old woman before punching her in the face, according to several witnesses who made statements to the police.

The statements are contained in the court file of Jacquetta B. Simmons, of 106 Ellsworth Ave., Batavia, charged with two counts of assault in the second degree.

Th statements are from a dozen witnesses who describe the alleged incident either in detail or made the same general observations.

The altercation began, according to reports, when the employee asked a companion of the suspect for a receipt for merchandise in a shopping bag he was holding. Both of the customers refused to produce a receipt, according to the reports, at which point the employee reportedly grabbed the bag from the man.

The employee and a manager said they were enforcing Walmart policy, but numerous online articles say blanket policies have proven legally treacherous for retail stores.

More than a dozen statements about the alleged incident are contained in the court file of Simmons.

The employee, Grace Suozzi, was taken to UMMC where she was treated for injuries to her eye, jaw and cheek, including bone fractures. Souzzi's glasses were also broken when she was hit.

Suozzi gave a statement to a trooper while at the hospital.

"I was working at Walmart on register 2 when I asked a man for a receipt," Souzzi says in her statement. "The man said that the bag was the female's who I was checking out. The man and the woman both refused to show me the receipt, which is the company's policy. I paged my manager about three times. I walked around and took the bag from the man. The female grabbed the bag from me, yelling at me saying the F word every other word. I grabbed the bag back and the bag tore."

According to Suozzi's statement, customer service managers arrived at the register and the argument continued and, as Souzzi put it, "the female decked me."

While Suozzi states she was upholding store policy, several online articles indicate if Walmart's policy is to detain and require a customer produce a receipt for a purchase without suspicion of theft, it may be violating the customer's rights.

The Washington Post wrote about such policies in 2007 and The Legality, an online law journal, examines the issue in some detail.

According to online accounts, receipt checks must be voluntary and customers cannot be detained unless an employee has a specific belief that a theft may have taken place.

A spokeswoman for Walmart said the company may release a statement later on its actual receipt check policy, but meanwhile she referred The Batavian to a loss prevention expert with the National Retail Federation, based in Washington, D.C.

"Of course," a customer may refuse to produce a receipt, said Joe Larocca, but a store may also refuse service to customers, and a customer who isn't cooperative may find himself barred from the store in the future.

Every retail chain has its own policies, Larocca explained, but they're all active in aggressive loss-prevention measures.

A retail store employee can detain anybody the employee reasonably suspects of theft, Larocca said, and stores are legally protected when an actual theft is suspected.

Nationally, retail stores lose $35.3 billion to theft each year.

"The number of consumers who complain are just a handful of people," Larocca said. "By and large, customers regard the request for a receipt as reasonable. They recognize that stores must protect their merchandise. Everybody recognizes that losses in the store mean higher prices at the registers."

But online stories indicate there are times when customers challenge an employee requesting a receipt for an item purchased, such as an account in The Consumerist of a man who remained calm when confronted by Walmart employees in Virginia and eventually walked out of the store with his purchase despite never showing his receipt.

Witness accounts from Christmas Eve, however, indicate Simmons was anything but calm during the confrontation.

"Cashier Grace was working at register 2," wrote a store manager. "She asked to see a customer's receipt for a bag of merchandise they had. The woman refused to show a receipt. Then the woman began swearing loudly at Grace. The woman grabbed the bag out of Grace's hands and then punched Grace in the face causing Grace to fall to the floor."

A customer wrote, "... they were surrounded by the CSM's (customer service managers) ... they were trying to talk to her but the customer was furious and swearing and she tried to take the bag from Grace's hands so all the stuff dropped on the floor. Finally she punched her in the face and threw Grace 10 feet away."

Nearly every account describes Simmons yelling obscenities at Souzzi before allegedly hitting her.

Witnesses say Simmons was with an unidentified man who in one account tried to keep Simmons calm and in another was yelling into a mobile phone.

The accounts of store managers also indicate they believe it is Walmart's policy for customers to produce a receipt upon demand.

One manager wrote, "I was called over to register two today and asked by the customers why cashier Grace wouldn't let them leave without seeing a receipt. I told them I know that Grace had done the right thing and that we couldn't let them leave without a receipt. They started to get rude and loud and I called (another employee) over to help with the situation."

It's unclear from the statements if Suozzi was engaged in a systematic process of checking receipts, or engaged in other activities and singled out Simmons and her companion for some reason. It's also unclear why Simmons and her companion had a bag full of previously purchased merchandise while at the cash register.

The court file contains no statements by Simmons nor her companion.

State Police have said that Simmons did have a receipt for the items in the bag and is not accused of stealing anything from Walmart.

The Batavia resident is out of jail on $40,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court again Jan. 23.

Simmons is charged with two counts of assault, 2nd, one for allegedly causing serious injury and the other for allegedly injuring a person 65 or older.

As a first-time offender, Simmons is facing a possible sentence, if convicted, of two to seven years in prison.

The statute making assault on a person 65 or older a Class D felony was passed in 2008.

NOTE: On Sunday, we published a story with a witness statement saying Simmons was smiling after she was cuffed. We've heard from several other people who contradict that statement, describing Simmons conduct in widely differing accounts, from hysterical, to angrily yelling, to calm and emotionless, but nobody else reports seeing her smiling.

December 27, 2011 - 1:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, Sponsored Post, advertisement.

Cookies and Milk would like to inform everyone in the community that they going out of business as of Saturday, Dec. 31.

There are lots of items for sale such as an oven, tables and racks. All equipment is for sale.

Stop by Cookies & Milk, 29 City Centre or contact Lorraine Schaub at 585-356-7759 for additional information.

December 27, 2011 - 10:15am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, accident.

A driver who reportedly fled the scene of a minor-injury accident on Route 98 at West Saile Drive at 4:15 p.m., Monday, was later located and charged with DWI.

The driver, Leann F. Bach, 57, of West Bergen Road, Bergen, was also cited for allegedly running a red light and failure to yield right of way.

Suffering a minor injury in the accident was Verna M. Oehler, 63.

Bach was reportedly driving westbound on West Saile Drive in a 2003 Chevy SUV when she allegedly failed to stop for the red light at Route 98.

Northbound on Route 98 was John E. Oehler, 62, of Oak Orchard Road, Batavia, with Verna as a passenger, in a 2003 Chevy pickup. 

Fabian S. Hernandez, 48, of Columbia Avenue, Batavia, was also on Route 98 in a 2005 Ford SUV.

Bach reportedly attempted to make a left turn onto Route 98 and struck Oehler's vehicle, pushing it into the SUV driven by Hernandez.

Hernandez had 10 passengers in his vehicle, but none of them were injured.

Bach then reportedly continued south on Route 98 and was located some time later.

No other citations or criminal charges were listed in the accident report.

The accident was investigated by Sgt. Greg Walker.

(Initial report)

December 27, 2011 - 9:44am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, elba.

Tremaine Jason Halftown, 37, of Brant Reservation Road, Brant, is charged with criminal contempt, 1st. Halftown was allegedly a passenger in a vehicle being driven by a woman Brant had been ordered by an Erie County court not to contact.

Charles William Glover, 69, of Tournament Drive, Hudson, Fla., is charged with trespass. Glover is accused of trespassing on property on Pekin Road, Elba, at 9:56 a.m., Dec. 22.

December 26, 2011 - 8:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos, bergen.

This afternoon, Billie and I had a matter to attend to in Victor (no, it wasn't at the Eastview Mall, though we drove by -- man, what a zoo). On the way back, we took Pachuco for a walk in Powder Mill Park in Bushnell Basin (those pictures will eventually appear on and then we headed home, hitting the Bergen off-ramp just about 15 minutes before sunset. Billie was kind enough to indulge my desire to roam around and snap a few pictures.

Above, a red barn on Appletree Avenue, Bergen.

Barn on Route 262, Bergen.

Sunset on Batavia Bryon Road.

Cemetery on Batavia Byron Road.

Same cemetery, same tree.

Same cemetery, standing in the same spot as previous picture, looking east.

Bank Street Road

December 26, 2011 - 6:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

A vehicle that may have been involved in a property-damage accident on Route 98 at West Saile Drive reportedly fled the scene and headed south on Route 98.

The car was last seen turning onto Park Road heading toward Veterans Memorial Drive.

The vehicle is described as a gray Chevy Venture. It's missing a front bumper and the passenger-side headlight is out.

The car is registered to a resident in Bergen.

UPDATE 6:29 p.m.: Not sure, but it sounds like the vehicle has been located, unoccupied. Didn't catch a location.

UPDATE 6:33 p.m.: Both airbags in the vehicle were deployed.

December 26, 2011 - 5:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, photos.

Reader Debra Nanni took a walk through Downtown enjoying all of the storefront displays and wanted share her pictures, and her appreciation with The Batavian readers.

"It's not New York City, but it was a pleasant walk anyways, and nice to look at," Nanni said.

BTW: People who register on Shop Batavia can submit community pictures to that website as well.

December 26, 2011 - 1:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos.

From my back window, looking north west this morning, the sky looked like it might be pretty interesting, but I didn't have time to go out and see if there were any pictures to be made.

Reader Eric von Kramer did take a few photos and emailed these to us.

December 26, 2011 - 8:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Le Roy, Alabama.

Cynthia L. Clark, 41, of 115 Wolcott St., Le Roy, is charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, 3rd. Clark is accused of taking a vehicle and driving it to Rochester without the owner's permission.

Corey James Hemmer, 25, of South Main Street, Elba, is charged with criminal mischief, 4th. Hemmer is accused of intentionally damaging a vehicle on Maple Avenue, Elba, on Dec. 12. Hemmer was jailed on $800 bail.

Kevin Michael Waleski, 23, of Church Street, Basom, is charged with grand larceny, 3rd. Waleski is accused of stealing a 2001 Dodge pickup truck valued at $10,000 from a location on Lewiston Road, Oakfield. The truck was located by a passerby in a ditch off Watson Road, Elba.

Ryan M. Palmer, 29, of 37 Tracy Ave., Batavia, is charged with driving while impaired by drugs and reckless driving. Palmer was stopped at 6:42 p.m., Saturday, in Batavia, by Sgt. John Peck.

December 25, 2011 - 10:27am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

CORRECTION: The employee allegedly assaulted was a cashier, not a greeter.

A 70-year-old greeter at Walmart suffered fractures on the left side of her face Christmas Eve after a 26-year-old woman allegedly punched her after being asked for her receipt for items in her shopping bag.

The young woman reportedly ran from the store and, according to witnesses and several customers, chased her and surrounded her car, preventing her from leaving until police arrived.

"One of the biggest things to note is that the community actually stood up and did not let this person get away with what she did," said one witness, who asked to remain anonymous. "Even on this busy shopping day, dozens of people stayed behind and made police reports."

Charged with two counts of assault in the second degree -- one for alleged attempt to cause serious injury and another for allegedly injuring a person 65 or older -- is Jacquetta Simmons of 106 Ellsworth Ave., Batavia.

Simmons was arraigned in Town of Batavia Court by Justice Michael Cleveland and committed to Genesee County Jail on $20,000 bail or $40,000 bond. She's scheduled to reappear in court Jan. 23.

The injured woman was taken to UMMC with a swollen face and multiple facial fractures.

Witnesses say the woman is a longtime employee of Walmart and loved by many.

The employee was reportedly working near the front doors of Walmart when Simmons tried to exit carrying a bag of merchandise. The victim asked Simmons for her receipt. It's unknown if there was any other conversation, but it was at this point that Simmons allegedly punched the victim, who was knocked to the floor.

Simmons then reportedly ran from the store, chased by other customers. 

Batavia police arrived on scene first, but Walmart is outside of the city, so State Police took over the investigation once on scene.

In comments on The Batavian's post yesterday, Michelle Wheatley, a witness, said, that as she was leaving she saw the suspect "standing by the police car in handcuffs with a big smile on her face."

UPDATE: Simmons posted $40,000 bond and was released from jail pending her next court appearance.

December 24, 2011 - 11:18am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

A person has reportedly struck a cashier in Walmart.

The suspect, a black male, has fled and employees are chasing him in the parking lot.

Police are responding.

UPDATE 11:20 a.m.: It sounds like they have a suspect stopped. The victim is in the ladie's restroom, requesting an ambulance. Batavia PD are on scene.

December 24, 2011 - 11:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident.

One person is reporting head and neck pain following a motor vehicle accident on West Main Street Road, Batavia.

The cars are reportedly in the parking lot of That Taco Place.

Town of Batavia Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

December 24, 2011 - 10:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident.

A person suffered an apparent arm injury early Saturday morning after being struck by a CSX train near the Wortendyke Road crossing.

RIchard J. Kubus, 31, no permanent address, was reportedly walking on railroad ties outside the tracks when he was struck by the train's snowplow.

The train stopped and a conductor called 9-1-1 at 3:49 a.m.

When deputies responded they found Kubus walking along the tracks.

Kubus was transported to ECMC for evaluation. His injury is not believed to be life threatening.

Assisting at the scene were Mercy EMS and the East Pembroke Fire Department.

The investigation is being conducted by Deputy Jason Saile, Deputy Eric K. Seppala and Sgt. Thomas Sanfratello, along with CSX security.

(Initial report)

December 24, 2011 - 10:03am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident.

A motor-vehicle accident with injuries has been reported in front of Tops Market, 390 W. Main St., Batavia.

City fire and Mercy EMS responding.

December 24, 2011 - 4:53am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

A Maple Street resident is being held in jail without bail and charged with a handful of alleged crimes after local law enforcement executed a search warrant on his apartment Friday evening.

Edward R. Freida, aka "Rob," aka "Turtle," 40, of 10 Maple St., is charged with criminal possession of a weapon, 3rd, criminal contempt, 1st, criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, unlawful possession of marijuana and criminally using drug paraphernalia, 2nd.

Members of the Local Drug Task Force, along with uniformed deputies, including the K-9 unit, and Batavia PD officers, executed the search warrant shortly about 6:30 p.m., Friday.

Investigators allegedly found a quantity of heroin, some marijuana, five switchblade knives and four long guns along with drug paraphernalia.

December 24, 2011 - 4:20am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident.

A person on Upton Road near the CSX crossing may have been struck by a train.

The initial call was the person was conscious and alert, but a first responder has asked for the ambulance to "step it up" because the patient is in and out of consciousness.

East Pembroke Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

The train has stopped.

UPDATE 4:21 a.m.: A CSX investigator is in route, one hour ETA.  A deputy responds that the patient will be transported to the hospital, "at a minimum for a mental health evaluation." CSX asks through dispatch if the person was actually struck. The deputy states, "The conductor says yes, but the physical evidence suggests otherwise."  Later, the deputy reports, "Disregard what I previously said. There is an arm injury."

UPDATE 4:32 a.m.: CSX asks through dispatch if trains can pass at a reduced speed on the other track. A deputy responds, "We're going to be all set here. The can proceed as soon as the train is ready to go."

December 23, 2011 - 11:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Liberty Street.

A person was seriously injured on Liberty Street on Friday night when he was stabbed by an unidentified assailant.

Police are looking for a suspect described as a black male, approximately 5' 10" and 160 lbs.

The victim was walking alone on the 100 block of Liberty at about 9 p.m., according to police, when the assailant attempted to steal property from the victim's pockets.

After trying to steal the property, the assailant stabbed the victim in the lower back.

The victim was transported by Mercy EMS to UMMC.

Police ask that anyone with information that may assist in the case to call Officer Chris Camp at 345-6350 or the confidential tip line at 345-6370.

December 23, 2011 - 12:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Pauly's Pizza.

Paul Berardini has gotten a warm welcome in Clarence.

When you make good food for people, things like that tend to happen.

The second location for Batavia-based Pauly's Pizza is really catching on, Berardini said, but what really kicked business up another notch was a rave review in the Buffalo News.

"That was priceless," Berardini said. "She gave us four out of four pennies and I've been told nobody has gotten four out of four pennies in a long time."

Berardini and partner Dave Stupp opened the new location Oct. 24 -- by coincidence, the seventh anniversary of the first Pauly's location opening on Liberty Street in Batavia (Pauly's is now located on Ellicott Street after a fire destroyed the previous location).

"This town needed something different," Berardini said. "They needed a hearth-baked pizza. They needed something we could offer that they're not used to getting in this area. They're used to pans, screens, conveyer belts, where we're doing hearth-baked, and my tenders, they've never had out here."

Where Batavia has eight pizzerias serving 18,000 people, Clarance only had four pizzerias serving 25,000.

When a prime location -- with more than 15,000 cars passing daily --  on Route 5 became available, Berardini and Stupp decided to move on it.

The 3,000-square-foot location was previously a served charcoal-pit hamburgers and hot dogs, but the owner struggled with a seasonal business, Berardini said.

The partners invested in two pizza ovens, a fryer, a griddle and all new furniture and fixtures.

"Everything you see here is new," said Berardini, who has talked in recent years about trying to find a way to expand the dining area of Pauly's.

The new location gives him a restaurant with plenty of seating.

"I always felt that a pizzeria isn't just a pizzeria any more," Berardini said. "Now we serve fish fry and ribs and pasta. We're already selling more fish fries and fingers here."

As is the process these days, it wasn't easy to get the new location open. There were delays with the health inspections and the town was giving some push back on the sign.

"Once they found out what we were investing in this place, and that we were hiring 20 people, giving 20 new jobs to the area, they kind of gave us a stay of execution on the sign," Berardini said.

Getting the restaurant open has taken a lot of Berardini's time. He hopes that after the first of the year, he can more evenly split time between the Batavia and Clarence locations. He hopes more friends and fans from Batavia will visit Clarence.

But working nearly seven days a week suits Berardini just fine for now. The new location is doing well, he feels like the employees in both locations are family, and he says he's living the dream.

"I was born to do this and this is what I love to do," Berardini said.

December 23, 2011 - 9:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Le Roy, Grand Jury.

Michael A. Mistler is indicted on a charge of strangulation, 2nd, and assault, 2nd. Mistler is accused of obstructing the breathing and blood circulation by applying pressure to the victim's neck during an alleged incident July 22. Mistler is accused of trying to cause serious physical injury to the alleged victim.

Steven A. Mullen is indicted on charges of failure to register a change of address and offering a false instrument for filing. Mullen is a convicted sex offender and is accused of moving to a motel on West Main Street, Batavia, then he allegedly failed to register his change of address. Mullen allegedly filed a change of address with an incorrect address on the form.

Prosecutor's information: The Grand Jury declined to indict Thomas W. Sherman on a charge of assault, 2nd, but did charge Sherman with assault, 3rd. The case is referred back to the Town of Le Roy Court. Sherman allegedly assaulted a person in Le Roy on Jan. 23.

No Bill: The Grand Jury did not find sufficient evidence to indict Wyatt S. Penfold on charges of assault, 2nd, and attempted assault, 2nd. The charges stemmed from an alleged incident on July 22.


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