A Buffalo, New York man made threats to two local businesses over the weekend and referenced a mass shooting at a local supermarket that occurred a day earlier where 10 people were killed and several others injured, authorities said Monday.
Joseph S. Chowaniec, 52, is charged with making a terroristic threat and faces seven years in prison, Eric County District Attorney John Flynn said.
"This defendant is accused of making threatening phone calls to businesses and referencing this horrific shooting as the entire City of Buffalo is grieving this tragedy," Flynn said in a statement. "This crime will not be tolerated – especially as we are actively investigating the Jefferson Avenue shooting as a domestic terrorism incident. Any threat will be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Chowaniec allegedly called a pizza shop just after noon on Sunday and spoke to an employee. During the conversation, he allegedly made a threat "to intimidate or coerce that created a reasonable expectation of fear," Flynn's office said.
The shop closed for the rest of the day as a result of the incident, he said. Just after 12:45 p.m., Chowaniec allegedly made another call to a brewery in downtown Buffalo, authorities said.
In both calls, he referenced the shooting a day earlier at a Tops Friendly Market where accused gunman Payton Gendron, 18, killed 10 people and wounded three others in a racially-motivated attack, authorities said.
Chowaniec appeared in court Monday and was ordered by a judge not to have contact with the two businesses. Authorities have not said if Chowaniac alleged actions were racially motivated.
The Buffalo News reported that he was arrested in 2008 for allegedly impersonating a police officer and robbing someone in an SUV.
He is expected to return to court on May 20 for a felony hearing. He was being held in an Eric County jail facility. No bail information was available.