Child homicides in city a growing problem - The Buffalo News

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Child homicides in city a growing problem

A fight between two teenage girls in a playground escalated out of control until a gun was pulled and a 14-year-old boy who had nothing to do with the fight was killed.

Seven hours later, two 17-year-olds walking near a drug house in Kensington-Bailey were shot, one fatally.

Raymond Patterson III and Ronnie Scott were the 10th and 11th victims in the growing list of Buffalo murder victims, all under the age of 20, slain over the past 20 months.

There are two overriding motivations and one common denominator in the killings, police say.

The two main reasons are youthful anger and gang violence; the common denominator is often illegal guns.

All were evident Tuesday when Patterson and Scott were killed.

“In the first one, you have an innocent victim, a bystander, and in the second one, you have a gang-connected victim,” a police source said Wednesday in reflecting on both deaths. “This is night and day, not to say the gang member should be dead.”

At the Kenfield-Langfield housing projects, where Patterson and three other teens were shot, the president of the residents council lamented that these types of killings have almost become “cliché.”

If there was a steadfast resolve among elected leaders, Leonard Williams said, the flow of guns onto the streets would be curtailed and young people would not be able to take lethal aim at each other.

“As a member of the NRA, I am saying that, if there was the political will, I sincerely believe it would stop kids running around with guns,” Williams said. “It is just plain craziness, and we as adults have a responsibility to protect our children.”

Williams spoke as children gathered Wednesday for lunch at the Martha P. Mitchell Community Center, operated by the council, on Oakmont Avenue, just a short distance from where the quadruple shooting occurred Tuesday afternoon.

“I know here at this center, we are going to look at how we can better protect our kids,” he said.

Parents involved

You might think that if parents would get involved, a fight between two teenage girls at a playground would calm the situation. But that is not what happened at the Kenfield-Langfield projects.

The parents of one of the girls encouraged them to battle it out, according to police. The fight began in Roosevelt Park, connected to the projects by a pedestrian bridge over the Kensington Expressway, but moved to the projects when the parents were recruited.

At first, the fight was between one of the girls and an 11-year-old boy at the park, police and residents said.

She had attacked him in retaliation for an incident involving the 11-year-old boy and a member of her family. Another teenage girl at the park then took the side of the boy and began fighting on his behalf, police said.

The girl who started the altercation then got her parents, and the fight resumed in a parking lot behind the projects, by the footbridge.

“The parents were egging on the girls to fight it out,” a police source said.

Neighbors who witnessed the fight from their apartments said a crowd of 30 to 40 young people formed around the two combatants; curious motorists pulled over to watch.

“I had been napping with my grandchild when all of this screaming woke me up. I looked out my back window and two girls were fighting and there were all these other boys and girls around them,” said a neighbor who requested her name be withheld. “A girl in the crowd was holding up her phone and recording the fight. I was hoping no one would get hurt. Then I heard four or six gunshots. I panicked. Someone in the crowd was firing. It was terrible.”

Just before the gunfire, a man, perhaps between 20 and 30 years old, had tried to keep others from crossing the footbridge into the parking lot to watch the fight, according to authorities.

When one of the spectators objected, a fight started between them and the man trying to limit spectators pulled out a gun and shot at the crowd indiscriminately, authorities said.

Raymond Patterson and his companions, whose names were not released, were struck by bullets as the other youngsters fled, police and neighbors said.

Homicide detectives say several individuals may have recorded the fight and shooting on their cellphones.

“We’re asking that they let us look at the videos they recorded,” Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said, and urged them to call the confidential tip line at 847-2255.

Derenda and Mayor Byron W. Brown late Wednesday afternoon were at the projects, urging anyone with video or who witnessed the shooting to assist homicide detectives.

Gang involvement

On the 100 block of Shirley Avenue late Tuesday night, a different set of dynamics led to bloodshed, police said.

That’s where Ronnie Scott and Diamond Allen, both 17, were shot by a person they knew, Derenda said.

“The victims and suspect were known to each other,” the commissioner said. “The Shirley Avenue shooting was not a random act. Our investigation is continuing, and we have increased patrols in the area.”

Residents on that section of Shirley, between Bailey and Comstock avenues, say drug houses and gangsters have poisoned the neighborhood for years.

Police have closed one of those drug houses, directly across from 188 Shirley where Scott was shot.

“Some of the neighbors call this section of Shirley Avenue ‘Buff-ghanistan,’” said a neighbor who stopped to talk to police Wednesday about problems in the neighborhood.

Gunfire among street gangs is nothing new. The impetus for these shootings ranges from disputes over territories where they sell drugs to perceived slights of disrespect, authorities say.

Police did not release a motive for the shooting on Shirley but said that Scott did not live on the street.

“I’m going to have to move out of here,” said one woman. “It’s just getting to be too much. Someone packed up and moved the other day.”

Frustrations build

Crystallynn Lewis, whose son is friends with two three teens hurt in the Kenfield shooting, said she will no longer let him make the short walk over to the basketball courts at Roosevelt Park.

“This is exactly why I don’t let you go anywhere,” she said to her son. “I’m going to buy him a hoop so he can play outside our home.

“Kids don’t understand or sense danger until it is too late,” she said.

Donald Bryant, her husband and the boy’s stepfather, said the responsibility rests with parents to make sure their children are supervised.

“We have the Martha Mitchell Community Center and the Kensington-Bailey Community Center. Parents have options,” Bryant said, explaining that they need to be proactive and not wait until violence occurs.

For police and public officials, it was particularly frustrating that parents were encouraging the fight between the two teenage girls.

Darius G. Pridgen, president of the Buffalo Common Council, said he was not surprised to learn of the parents’ role, having only several days ago witnessed two girls fighting as a parent egged them on.

“I pulled over, and the parent of one of the young ladies was on the porch telling her to whoop her behind. If she didn’t break it up, I said, ‘I’m going to call CPS on you,’ ” Pridgen said.

Part of the problem, he says, is the impact of social media.

“Because we’re in a culture where YouTube gives street credibility to winners of fights, we’re up against social media and social chaos. Any parent who encourages their child to continue a fight in the street is a candidate for a CPS call,” Pridgen said.

“I think a big part of it is taking guns out of the hands of the people who shouldn’t have them,” he said.

“We need to better enforce the laws that we do have and enhance the punishment for those who do commit gun crimes.”

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