WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB) - A shoplifting suspect put his life on the line to ditch police hot on his trail in West Seneca, and authorities are still hunting for the accused thief.
Police say the suspect jumped from the Harlem Road bridge Monday night and dropped 27 feet into the Buffalo Creek, whose waters are only three- to four-feet deep. The suspect was never found, but authorities believe he is alive and are looking to find him.
West Seneca firefighters and divers with the Buffalo Police Underwater Recovery team searched the creek for hours after a nearby Tops Market captured this surveillance image of a man who store employees believe stole beer and cookies at about 8 p.m. Monday. West Seneca Police caught up with the suspect on the Harlem Road bridge.
West Seneca Police Officer Cheri McParlane said, "Pulled over my patrol car, got out, attempted to talk to the individual, asked him where he came from, what he had in his backpack. He did say that he had the beer in his backpack, disregarded his backpack, and jumped over the bridge in the middle of the bridge into the water. I saw him go into the water, did not see him come back up."
Police returned to the bridge Tuesday morning and searched the weeds in daylight.
West Seneca Police Lt. Kevin Baranowski said, "We did find some evidence at the northwest part of the creek bank along some Cheektowaga Sewer Authority property that indicates that the suspect we feel pretty confident left the water and was able to leave the area on foot."
Authorities now believe the man they are looking for is 20-year-old Rickie Ross, Jr., who they are calling a person of interest. Police released a mug shot of Ross from a minor arrest earlier this month and say he hangs out in the South Buffalo area.
Though a shoplifting case wouldn't normally garner this much time and effort, authorities say they need to know if the man jumped to his death or walked away.
If you know where Ross is, call the West Seneca Police confidential tipline at 675-8423. Police say at this point, they are mostly interested in questioning him to verify he made it out of the creek alive.
Buffalo Police have arrested 26-year-old Nicholas Finnegan, of South Buffalo, in connection to the November death of Russ Ross.
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