Prosecutors will not pursue a felony reckless endangerment charge against the host of an underage drinking party in Cheektowaga Feb. 12 that ended with the shooting death of a teenage Iraqi immigrant, Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark said Thursday.
Norma Geil, 39, of Ivanhoe Road will, however, face a new charge of robbery for her alleged involvement in planning an armed robbery of four partygoers about 12 hours before 18-year-old Khalid Ali was fatally shot by Geil's teenage daughter, police said.
Police say Geil, who hosted the overnight birthday party for her daughter where alcohol, drugs and guns were present, knew teenagers at the party were planning to rob four other partygoers and personally asked the planned victims to leave the party at about 2 a.m.
"She participated in helping to set up the robbery," said Cheektowaga police Capt. John Glascott.
When the four got to the end of the street, they were held up by a group of as many as six other teens from the party using the same .22-caliber rifle that eventually killed Ali.
Ali was shot in the head at about 2:15 p.m. Feb. 12 when the remaining partygoers were "playing games" with the rifle in Geil's apartment. The Kuwaiti-born Ali, who was raised in Iraq and moved to Buffalo with his family in 2002, died later that day in Erie County Medical Center.
Because the shooting was unintentional, Geil's 15-year-old daughter was charged with juvenile delinquency.
Meanwhile, Cheektowaga police detectives are in open disagreement with the district attorney's move to drop the reckless endangerment charge against Geil. "We believe the charges we laid were appropriate for the circumstances," Glascott said. "It's our job to arrest and charge appropriately and their job to prosecute but . . . if the district attorney disagrees, that his prerogative."
Cheektowaga police argue Geil's hosting of the party, providing alcohol to minors and permitting drug use and gun possession in her apartment satisfies the requirements for a reckless endangerment charge.
"Not only did she allow [the events] to happen, but also was a participant and it led to the death of Khalid," Glascott said, adding Geil knew at least three of the more than 30 guests brought guns to the party, including the rifle that was used to kill Ali.
"I think that shows a 'depraved indifference to human life,' " he said.
Not so, according to Clark. The facts of the case, he says, are "insufficient" to support the charge. Even case law does not support the detectives' theory, he says.
"It's not even close . . . it just doesn't work, it's a square peg in a round hole," Clark said. "As a matter of law, the facts of the case don't support that charge."
Cheektowaga police did charge two more male teenagers this week in the robbery. A 15-year-old faces robbery and criminal possession of a weapon charges and a 14-year-old was charged with robbery and petit larceny.
Additional charges are also pending against Evan Nix, 19, of Amherst for possession of stolen property. Police said Nix brought the shotgun to the party that ultimately killed Ali.