The owner of a Town of Tonawanda restaurant Monday brought his allegations of harassment and racial prejudice by town police to the Town Board, a day after a man was wounded by gunfire in the parking lot outside a non-alcohol DJ party at his business.
But while the police chief responded by saying the complaints would be thoroughly investigated, he also chastised the business owner for running an “unruly premises.”
Town Board members sided with the police while questioning security at the parties run by a promoter. A Cheektowaga man was wounded early Sunday when gunfire broke out among a crowd of more than 100 young people in the parking lot at Ying’s Wings and Things at Sheridan Drive and Eggert Road.
“The main thing is, they don’t want us to bring the black people into this town,” owner Jimmy Ying said of town police.
“That’s your opinion,” Councilman Joseph H. Emminger responded.
Six African-American employees of Ying, including delivery drivers and cooks, addressed the board in support of their boss as hardworking and honest. They said they had been unfairly targeted for traffic stops and given tickets for minor infractions.
“I’ve been followed out of the parking lot numerous times and ticketed right across the street,” one driver said. “I have about seven, eight tickets all in the exact same spot from the exact same Police Department.”
Police Chief Anthony J. Palombo flatly denied the allegations.
“We’re not prejudiced against anybody,” he said. “We’re not prejudiced against any groups that come into our town. What we are prejudiced against are people who break the law, who we’ve seen harm others – whether they be visitors to this town or our citizens.”
A woman who said she was in the parking lot on Oct. 19 to pick up her son at the Halloween attraction Frightworld told the board she witnessed underage drinking of alcohol in cars and a fight between two girls. She said police were harassed when they responded.
“So maybe they have a little bit of an attitude when they come here because it seems they go there every weekend,” she said. “Every weekend when I pick up my son, there’s something going on in that parking lot.”
Town Board members questioned whether Ying was responsible for his patrons’ actions in the parking lot, and Palombo confirmed that he is.
“If the problem is outside your restaurant, I think you need to address it,” Councilman John A. Bargnesi Jr. said.
Councilman Daniel J. Crangle said police would be expected to crack down on any establishment in the town where violence occurs.
“They’re going to do their jobs,” he said of police. “And I think that’s what they’ve been doing all along.”
Meanwhile, police Monday afternoon released one of several videos of the shooting that they are reviewing.
No arrests have been made, but Ying was charged with second-degree criminal nuisance and taken into custody for several hours before he was released.
It was the fifth time that he has been charged with criminal nuisance since Sept. 14, when he started renting part of the restaurant to a promoter for the Saturday night parties but the first time he was taken into custody on the charge.