Warrant issued for county lawmaker in truck damage case

Nov. 2—Lockport police have issued an arrest warrant for a Niagara County lawmaker who is accused of intentionally causing damage to a motor vehicle parked outside a local bar last week.

Police Chief Steve Abbott confirmed Thursday that his department has issued a warrant for 12th District Niagara County Legislator Will Collins Sr. who has been charged with third-degree criminal mischief.

The charge stems from an incident that was reported to LPD involving the slashing of a tire on a truck parked outside Attitudes bar, 616 West Ave., on Oct. 26.

Abbott said police filed the charge based on witness statements and video footage obtained from the scene.

"We wouldn't order the arrest if we didn't know it was him," Abbott said.

Abbott said he was told by Collins' attorney, George Muscato, that the county lawmaker was traveling out of the area and is expected to turn himself in to police when he returns to Lockport on Tuesday.

Muscato did not immediately respond to this newspaper's request for comment on the matter.

In an interview earlier this week, the owner of the damaged pickup truck, Roy Hamilton, said he filed a report with LPD on Monday, days after he claims Collins was captured on surveillance video intentionally puncturing the front, passenger-side tire of his vehicle while it was parked outside Attitudes.

Hamilton said he was inside the bar on Thursday afternoon when he and other customers heard a loud noise, which he described as a "big bang."

"I went outside and my tire was flat," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he was made aware of cameras at the scene and that footage showed the incident. In one of the videos, which was obtained by this newspaper, a man is shown approaching a pickup parked outside the bar and moving near the front, passenger-side area of the truck.

In the video, the man can be seen making a motion near the tire on that side of the vehicle with what appears to be a knife or some kind of instrument before the tire appears to sustain a sidewall blowout. The video shows the man quickly moving away from the truck and out of frame as the tire deflates.

While it is difficult from the footage obtained by this newspaper to determine whether the person who slashed the tire is Collins, Hamilton said he was told by the owners of the bar that there were other videos that clearly show it was Collins who caused the damage. Hamilton added that he and other witnesses saw Collins inside the bar on Thursday and saw him exit before the incident.

Hamilton said he did not know why Collins would have slashed his tire.

Following the incident, Hamilton said, he spent the bulk of his afternoon trying to get a replacement tire and lost work and money as a result.

Hamilton said he is aware that Collins is a county legislator and that makes no difference to him. Collins could be the "president of the United States" and that doesn't change the fact that "wrong is wrong."

"I want to hold him accountable for it," Hamilton said. "He really did me wrong. ... If he's doing something wrong, he deserves to be held accountable for it, right?"

Collins, 57, is the owner-operator of Collins Accounting in Lockport. The Republican has represented Lockport in the legislature's 12th District for 12 years and is the chair of the legislature's infrastructure committee, vice chair of its economic development committee, and a member of its administration and refuse disposal committees.

An employee who answered a call from the newspaper at Collins Accounting on Monday afternoon said the legislator was not available. Messages left on the office answering machine have also not been returned.