Joseph Chowaniec charged with threatening buffalo businesses

Joseph S. Chowaniec (via Erie County Sheriff

Joseph S. Chowaniec (via Erie County Sheriff’s Office)

A New Yorker was arrested and charged with threatening to attack Buffalo stores just days after an accused white supremacist allegedly shot dead 10 black people at a local grocery store.

Joseph S. Chowaniec52, is accused of making threatening phone calls to two restaurants in the city of Buffalo on Sunday, forcing one to close.

“It is alleged that on Sunday, May 15, 2022, the defendant placed a phone call at approximately 12:05 p.m. to a pizza place on Delaware Avenue in the city of Buffalo,” the Erie County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release Monday. “The defendant allegedly spoke to an employee and made threats with intent to intimidate or coerce him, invoking a reasonable expectation of fear. The pizzeria was closed for the day after the alleged incident.”

Within an hour, Chowaniec reportedly called a second location and made similarly intimidating threats.

“It is further alleged that the defendant made a second phone call to a downtown Buffalo brewery on Sunday, May 15, 2022 at approximately 12:47 p.m.,” the press release said. “The defendant allegedly spoke to an employee and made a threat with intent to intimidate or coerce, creating a reasonable expectation of fear.”

According to local CBC affiliate WIVBChowaniec reportedly called Bocce Pizza and threatened to “shoot Bocce like the Tops on Jefferson” when he complained about a pizza being made earlier in the week.

WIVB identified Chowaniec’s second suspected target as Southern Tier Brewing Company in Downtown Buffalo.

Any resemblance to Sunday’s attack on a grocery store, officials say, was intentional.

“In both of the alleged threats, the defendant allegedly referred to the shooting that took place at Tops Friendly Markets on Jefferson Avenue in the city of Buffalo,” the press release said.

According to the WIVB report, Buffalo police saw Chowaniec on the street before arresting him and said no suspicious activity was observed at the time. Police reportedly described Chowaniec as a white man holding a sign that read, “Uncle Sam Dismantles White Supremacy.”

His criminal history reportedly includes an arrest in 2008 for posing as an officer and robbing a victim in an SUV, WIVB said, citing a year 2008 Buffalo News Report.

Chowaniec is charged with making a terrorist threat, a crime. If convicted, he faces a maximum of seven years in prison.

“This defendant is charged with making threatening phone calls to businesses and referring to this horrific shooting as the entire city of Buffalo mourns this tragedy,” the Erie County District Attorney said John Flynn said in the publication. “This crime will not be tolerated – especially as we are actively investigating the Jefferson Avenue shooting as a domestic terrorism.” Any threat will be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The calls came less than 24 hours later Payton S. Gendron18, is believed to have opened fire at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo on Saturday afternoon. All of the Victims killed in the mass shooting were black. Three other people were injured – one victim is black and two other victims are white.

Gendron supposedly had sent a racist and anti-Semitic manifesto online and is believed targeting the market because it was in a black neighborhood. Police say he traveled several hours to Buffalo from his hometown near Binghamton, New York.

Commissioner of the Buffalo Police Department Joseph Gramaglia said the mass shooting was “an absolute racist hate crime”.

Gendron is currently calculated with a case of first degree murder.

Chowaniec is scheduled to appear at a hearing on Friday. He is being held without bail pending a forensic examination, the prosecutor’s office said.

[Image via Erie County Sheriff’s Office.]

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James Brien

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