A week after about 70 people witnessed the slaying of Oscar K. Paris in a fight over a pickup basketball game, the murder suspect surrendered this afternoon at Buffalo Police Headquarters.
Odell Wilkins, 19, was accompanied by several people, including Council Member at Large Charley H. Fisher III and community activist Darnell Jackson, when he walked into the lobby of headquarters. He was quickly handcuffed by homicide detectives.
"He called me this morning and said he wanted to surrender," said Jackson, a neighbor of Wilkins.
"He was scared and didn't want to be out on the streets of Buffalo," Jackson said. "What kind of chance would he have? Police were describing him as armed and dangerous. He's upstairs in the Homicide Bureau crying. He's scared."
Wilkins, known as "O.J.," whose last known address was on Box Street, was charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon in the fatal shooting of 33-year-old Paris, according to Capt. Joseph Riga, chief of the Homicide Bureau.
"I'm glad he turned himself in," Riga said.
Wilkins is accused of killing Paris during a dispute over who would play next in a basketball game in the gym at the CRUCIAL Community Center on Moselle Street at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Johnny Walker, Wilkins' stepfather, also accompanied the suspect. Walker said that, until this morning, he had not had contact with his stepson since the slaying.
"He came to us just this morning, and I thought we should surrender. He was scared. His mother hasn't seen him," Walker said, after accompanying his stepson to the third-floor Homicide Bureau.
Walker commended his stepson for surrendering, saying the teen did the right thing.
Fisher said he felt it was necessary for several people to accompany Wilkins to Police Headquarters to ensure a safe conclusion to the search for the young man.
"He's 19 years old and does not have a heavy criminal record. He's a young man who is afraid," said Fisher. "At least at this point, he is not a fugitive or out on the streets."
The Council member described last week's shooting as a double tragedy.
"My heart goes out to the family who will conduct funeral services for Oscar Paris tomorrow. Two families suffered a double tragedy in addition to all those young people who were there," Fisher said in referring to the many witnesses.
Jackson, the community activist, claimed a lack of adequate supervision at the CRUCIAL center was a contributing factor to the killing.
"There isn't enough supervision for the 100 to 200 people who go to the center," he said.
Addressing that concern, Fisher said steps should be taken to ensure security at city community centers.
"It is an absolute necessity. We need to have the funding. All of our community centers need to be safe," he said.