Aug. 4—More than two and a half years after beloved South End shopkeeper Ahmad "Poppy" Alsaid was gunned down in his Bridgeway Market store on Niagara Street, a Niagara County Court jury has convicted the men accused of robbing and killing him.
The jury of six men and six women took just four hours to find Jonathan McEnnis and William Coleman guilty on 20 of the 22 counts they faced in an indictment that accused them of the Bridgeway Market homicide and robbery, the armed robbery of a 7-Eleven convenience store a short time later and the robbery and shooting of a Falls man 11 days prior to the mayhem of Thanksgiving Eve 2018.
Neither McEnnis, 36, of Keystone Avenue in Buffalo nor Coleman, 31, of Niagara Falls, showed any reaction as the jury foreperson repeatedly said the word, "guilty" in response to the court clerk's reading of the verdict sheet. The two men, who were each on parole at the time of Alsaid's murder, after serving 10 years in prison on charges related to a violent robbery in Buffalo, could face maximum prison sentences of 75 years to life from State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr.
Niagara County District Attorney Brian Seaman, who tried the case alongside First Assistant District Attorney Doreen Hoffmann, said prosecutors are weighing whether they'll ask Kloch for a maximum sentence.
"We haven't made that determination yet," Seaman told reporters after the jury verdict.
Defense attorneys for McEnnis and Coleman said their client's cases were not closed.
"My client, Mr. McEnnis, intends to appeal and that's all I can say," defense attorney Joseph Scalzo said.
Coleman's attorney, A. Joseph Catalano, said, "My client is disappointed in the verdict and will be appealing."
Members of Alsaid's family had been in the courtroom throughout the seven-day trial and his son, Saeed Alsaid, testified in the case. After the verdict, the family members said they were too overcome with emotion to speak.
But in an early evening email to a Gazette reporter, Saeed Alsaid and his wife, Jamie Dolliver, expressed their appreciation for the work of police and prosecutors.
"(We) did want to thank the Niagara Falls (Police) detective unit for working this case so diligently. Their hard work goes unappreciated far too often. As well as the prosecutor Ms. Doreen Hoffman for being there for us from day one passionately fighting for justice for our dad," They wrote. "District Attorney Mr. Brian Seaman is not only an excellent attorney, but a remarkable person with his kindness and obvious passion for justice. And Ms. Caroline Wojtaszek for taking on the case in the beginning. As well as the jury for taking the time to deliberate and sacrificing so much to be part of this trial."
Seaman echoed the family's sentiments on the work of Falls Police Criminal Investigation Division detectives on the case.
"This is the type of case that could have easily gone unsolved," the district attorney said. "These guys left no physical evidence behind, no fingerprints, no DNA, faces covered with masks. The only reason this case was solved was the determined efforts of the Niagara Falls Police Department. They went above and beyond. I hope the verdict brings some solace to the Alsaid family."
In their closing arguments to the jurors, defense attorneys for McEnnis and Coleman repeatedly claimed prosecutors had presented no evidence to tie their clients to the crimes. Catalano said jurors would have to "speculate" to find Coleman guilty.
Lawyers for McEnnis made the same claim.
But Hoffmann refuted the defense claims in a slick, high-tech, multi-media presentation that mixed security camera videos with animated cell phone and geo-tracking data that she said linked McEnnis and Coleman to all three incidents for which they were charged.
Security camera video from a 68th Street home allowed police to identify a vehicle owned by McEnnis and then tie that vehicle to the crime scenes. Video from the 7-Eleven store provided proof, Hoffman said, that the hooded and masked hold-up men matched descriptions of McEnnis and Coleman.
And video from the Bridgeway Market, the prosecutor said, identified Coleman as the armed robber who went behind a counter, gunned down Alsaid and then stole cash from the store's register. Hoffman also identified McEnnis as the gunman who fired a random shot over the counter at Alsaid.
Using the cell phone, geo-tracking data and captures from police license plate readers, EZ-Pass readers and Buffalo Police surveillance cameras, Hoffman traced McEnnis' travel from his Buffalo home to Coleman's Niagara Falls apartment, to the crime scenes and back.
In refusing a request by defense attorneys to dismiss the charges against their clients, during the trial, Kloch characterized the high-tech evidence as "a digital fingerprint" left behind by McEnnis and Coleman.
"They thought they had committed the perfect crime," Hoffmann said. "Masked and gloved, no one could identify them. But they underestimated the work of the Niagara Falls Police Department."