Two teenagers and a woman who hosted a two-day party at her Cheektowaga apartment were arrested Wednesday on charges connected to an armed robbery and the subsequent shooting death of a teenage Iraqi immigrant, police said.
The same .22-caliber rifle used to kill Khalid Ali on Sunday afternoon, in an apparently unintentional shooting, also was used -- but not fired -- in the robbery, Cheektowaga police reported.
Norma Geil, 39, the resident of the Ivanhoe Road apartment where the party occurred; Evan Nix, 19, of Amherst; and the 15-year-old girl who shot and killed 18-year-old Khalid Ali were all charged at about 7:30 p.m. by Cheektowaga police detectives, according to Capt. John Glascott.
Geil and Nix were being held at Cheektowaga Police Headquarters pending their arraignments in Town Court. The 15-year-old, identified as Geil's daughter, was being held in the East Ferry Detention Center.
The arrests came three days after Ali was shot in the head at about 2:15 p.m. Sunday by the girl at her birthday party inside Geil's garage apartment. Partygoers told police the girl thought the rifle was empty when she fired and struck Ali in the head.
"It was brought to the house by somebody; we're still trying to figure that out. We do know it was involved in the robbery and we know it was brought back in the house and it was involved in the horseplay and nonsense in the bedroom," Glascott said.
Police know at least three of the more than 30 guests at the party came armed with guns.
Glascott said four youths were asked to leave the party at about 2 a.m., in an attempt to set them up to be robbed. When the four got to the end of the street, they were accosted by a group of as many as six others from the party who held them up at gunpoint. The robbers then returned to the house. Geil was home at the time of the party, the robbery and the shooting the next afternoon, police said.
Police are still trying to determine if anyone else was involved in the robbery.
"We believe, at this stage, that [Geil] knew they committed the robbery with guns and she does nothing," Glascott said. "Had she done something at that stage, Khalid might still be alive."
The party, described by Glascott as "a two-day binge for these kids," continued Sunday. At about 2:15 p.m., a group of the remaining partygoers told police they were "playing games" with the rifle.
That's when Ali was shot.
Police charged the 15-year-old with juvenile delinquency "for committing an act that would be equivalent to a manslaughter second degree if levied on an adult," according to a police statement. Detectives also believe she was involved in the planning of the robbery.
Authorities have no doubt that the girl pulled the trigger. After meeting with Cheektowaga police Wednesday, District Attorney Frank Clark said the only question was her mental state at the time.
"Because of her age, she is only responsible criminally as an adult if it was an intentional act," Clark said.
"We're still not in a position to be able to say there is probable cause to show she intended to cause the death of Khalid," Glascott said.
Ali, who was born in Kuwait, raised in Iraq and moved to Buffalo with his family in 2002, died late Sunday in Erie County Medical Center from his injuries.
His family on Dearborn Street in Black Rock reacted with relief when informed of the arrests.
"I am so happy," said his father, Ali Albadri, as he sat in his house surrounded by nearly 20 family members and friends. "This is the law. This is the justice. Anyone breaks the law, he has to be arrested."
Albadri said he had stopped eating three days ago after learning of his son's death.
"Now I feel better," he said.
Geil was charged with felony reckless endangerment and misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child and making a punishable false written statement. Police said Geil "was responsible for the activities occurring during the party."
Police believe Geil provided liquor to underage partygoers at her apartment and was aware of drug use during the party. Police said Geil was aware of the robbery, that it involved weapons and that people who committed the robbery were armed and at the party.
"We further believe that Ms. Geil's actions or lack of actions showed a depraved indifference to human life, she recklessly engaged in conduct that created a grave risk of death to another person," according to a police statement.
Nix was charged with robbery.
Police said they felt "no pressure" to make arrests in the case despite intense public criticism from Ali's family about the speed of their investigation.
"This has been the primary case our detectives have worked since Sunday. Detectives have been working 16 hours a day," Glascott said. "One of the reasons an investigation takes so long is we don't need to get it fast, we need to get it right."