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April 19, 2013

Massachusetts men touch off a scare in Niagara Falls

A traffic stop involving two men driving a car with Massachusetts license plates touched off a scare in the Falls after police officers spotted suspicious-looking packages.

After a lengthy investigation and response from several law enforcement agencies, the car and it's occupants were declared not to be a threat by police at a 1 p.m. press conference at the City Market.

The incident began around 8:30 a.m. Friday when an Air National Guard member driving on the I-190 noticed the black Nissan and thought the car's occupants looked suspicious, according to Niagara Falls Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto.

The car was eventually pulled over by Falls police on Elmwood Avenue, between 18th and 19th streets, for a pair of traffic infractions.

While conducting the traffic stop, DalPorto said the officers spotted some suspicious-looking packages in the car. The two men were taken in to custody and the New York State Police Bomb Squad was called in.

By 9 a.m., the block of Elmwood Avenue was closed off as an investigation began.

Early erroneous reports by a local TV station said the men were Russian nationals but police quickly reported that was not the case.

DalPorto noted that the car belonged to the father of one of the occupants and he was called by police to ask for permission to search the vehicle.

State Police used their bomb-detecting robotic device to examine the car. It removed several packages that police had deemed to be suspicious.

Investigators said the packages simply contained personal items and papers upon closer examination.

The unidentified driver of the car was charged with failure to stop at a stop sign and failure to use a turn signal. Both people have been released by police.

State Police Capt. Craig Hanesworth said the strong response from authorities was a necessary one.

"Any time you're involved in a situation like this, you have an abundance of caution," he said.

DalPort agreed and praised the actions of the man who called police about the car.

"The Air National Guard member did exactly what he was supposed to do," DalPorto said. "His instincts were right on."

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