A 28-year-old Buffalo man has been arrested in connection with the Tuesday afternoon fatal shooting of 14-year-old Ray Floyd Patterson III at the Kenfield-Langfield public housing apartments.
Joseph P. Gant of Marigold Street was arrested at about 3:30 a.m. today and accused of shooting and killing Patterson and wounding three other teens.
Gant was arraigned this morning in City Court where he pleaded innocent to second-degree murder and three counts of first-degree assault. Patterson’s mother was in the courtroom for the arraignment but said nothing.
During the arraignment, when Gant pleaded not guilty, a relative of the slain boy shouted out “No.”
A felony hearing will be held Aug. 19.
One police source said Gant is related to one of the teenage boys he shot, and that he has a criminal record, including a charge of criminal possession of a weapon, dating to 2007.
At a news conference this morning, Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda praised the community for its help.
“The community was very important in this arrest. They stepped up. They came forward,” he said.
Derenda and Mayor Byron Brown on Wednesday afternoon went to the neighborhood where the shooting occurred asking for assistance in solving the murder.
“That walk yesterday pushed us over the top," Derenda said today.
Ray was an innocent bystander, felled by gunfire after a fight between two teenage girls on a playground escalated out of control, police said.
Police said the fight between the two girls escalated after parents of one of the girls encouraged the girls to battle it out,.
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, near 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.
Ray 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.