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NIAGARA FALLS – Police are receiving little help from the public as they search for a suspect in a shooting that happened just after 2:30 a.m. Sunday inside a crowded Highland Avenue bar.

The victim, Miciah “Michael” Watson, 21, of Willow Avenue, was in critical condition following surgery Sunday in Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo. His condition was upgraded to serious Monday.

His girlfriend told police Watson was wearing a cast on his foot at the time of the shooting because he was recovering from a previous gunshot wound.

Capt. William Thomson, chief of detectives, said investigators were hoping someone who was at 3M’s Bar at 3716 Highland would be able to provide information about the shooting.

The bar patrons “stampeded out” after the incident, Thomson said, providing little information to police.

Watson was found lying on his back just inside the back entrance of the building.

His girlfriend was holding a cloth over his stomach. A small-caliber hole was found in the victim’s upper abdomen. He was breathing and conscious at the scene, police reported. One .38-caliber shell casing was found at the scene.

Most of the people at the scene said they heard a pop, like a firecracker, and once they realized it was a gunshot they ran, police said.

The girlfriend told investigators that she had heard the shooting happened when Watson bumped a man, but she said she did not see the shooting. No other motive was given.

Police have been given the nickname of “E.J.” as the possible shooter.

Anyone who may have seen what happened or has any other information can contact the Niagara Falls Police Detective Bureau at 286-4553.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com