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Speedway, Town of Tonawanda Police criticized for handling of customer's arrest

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Posted at 10:38 PM, Aug 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-28 18:27:23-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Speedway says it "sincerely regrets" the false accusations one of its employees made against a customer.

On July 9th, Town of Tonawanda Police were called to the Speedway at 535 Kenmore Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda for a report of a customer cashing in a lottery ticket that was stolen during a smash-and-grab break-in the night before.

Eric Martin, a 30-year-old Black man, was arrested and charged with criminal possession of stolen property and resisting arrest.

Body camera footage released by Town of Tonawanda Police shows Martin being wrestled to the ground, and his attorney John Feroleto says this played out in front of his wife, 9-year-old son, and infant daughter.

Feroleto said his client was afraid of getting into the back of the police vehicle after he had just stated his innocence.

"To be taken into a police station and strip-searched at this time with this virus, totally unnecessary," said Mr. Martin's father, Eric Martin, Sr.

Days later, on July 14th, Speedway called Town of Tonawanda Police and notified them that Mr. Martin had indeed paid for the ticket he was cashing, according to James Stauffiger, Chief of Police. Charges were dismissed.

"At the end of the day this shouldn't happened. It shouldn't happen to Eric and it shouldn't happen to anybody else," said Martin, Sr.

The elder Martin says he, too, was accused of cashing in a stolen lottery ticket. However, he had a receipt to validate his purchase.

"We sincerely regret Mr. Martin’s experience and are engaged in ongoing discussions with his legal representative to explain what happened and why," said Marna Berlekamp, a spokesperson for Speedway. "Our employee was acting upon the information that was available at the time and according to our procedures."

On Thursday, Chief Stauffinger acknowledged that there was a violation of COVID arrest procedures during Mr. Martin's arrest. The Town of Tonawanda Police Department is currently in the process of disciplinary review of the matter.

Feroleto said, for now, the family is hoping this incident is a learning lesson for police departments but said the situation is fluid and more details about the arrest will come to light in the future.
Feroleto said the Martin family has not ruled out filing a claim at some point, but talks with Speedway have been positive.