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Police: Bystander slain after opening door for armed robbers

NIAGARA FALLS - A man who opened the door for two people banging to get in was hit on the head and killed Wednesday night, police say. He was the unintended victim of thieves who were intent on robbing other occupants of the building.

Falls homicide victim was disabled innocent bystander, mourners say

Police later charged a man and a woman with second-degree murder and robbery, and they are now looking for a third suspect.

Shequan Herbert, 22, and Stephanie Raymond, 18, are accused of killing Jose Hewitt, 59, at a Pine Avenue apartment, Niagara Falls police said.

Shequan Herbert, left, and Stephanie Raymond have been charged with second-degree murder. (Photos provided by Niagara Falls police)

They hit Hewitt in the head with what was believed to be a handgun on their way to robbing someone else in the building, police said.

Hewitt was found just inside the doorway of 617 Pine Ave. An autopsy is scheduled to be conducted Thursday to determine the cause of Hewitt's death. Police said there were no apparent gunshot or knife wounds.

Police believe Herbert and Raymond encountered Hewitt while on their way to robbing two people in an upstairs apartment. Police initially said they did not believe Hewitt's death was connected to the initial report of a robbery.

Herbert and Raymond arrived at the residence but couldn't access a common hallway to get inside, according to police. They banged on the building's outer door and Hewitt went to the door and yelled for the pair to come around to the back door of the building.

Hewitt was not aware of their intentions, police said. After striking Hewitt, the two proceeded upstairs, pointed a gun at the head of another victim and stole about $4,000. Herbert and Raymond left the building and got into a waiting vehicle, police said.

Hewitt was found on the floor near the door. He died before an ambulance arrived on the scene, according to police. Paramedics and Niagara Falls firefighters attempted life-saving techniques but were unsuccessful.

Thursday, records filed in Niagara Falls City Court, included statements witnesses gave to police about Hewitt's death.

One witness told Niagara Falls police he was in the upstairs apartment when the robbery happened and had been for several hours prior.

The witness told police he called a man from the apartment so he could buy Xanax pills around 5:30 or 6 p.m., according to court documents. The man came to the apartment, sold him four Xanax pills for $16 and left.

About a half-hour later, the witness said he heard a loud bang downstairs and heard his friend yelling at someone to stop hitting another man, according to his statement to police. When he was about to go down and check on what was happening, a man in a ski mask came running up the stairs, put a gun to his head and demanded money, according to the statement from the witness.

Another witness told police she saw a white female with Herbert in a car outside the 617 Pine Ave. building at about the time of the incident. The witness told police she recognized Herbert in the passenger seat, according to court documents.

She also told police there was another vehicle that pulled up and had at  least one other man in it. The second man got out his car and went with Herbert towards the barbershop, she told police.

They all fled the scene in the two vehicles a short time later, the witness said to police in a statement.

During an interview with detectives, Herbert denied being in the area of the robbery and killing at the time, according to court documents.

Herbert, of Ontario Avenue, was charged with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary. Raymond, of 71st Street, was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree robbery.

Herbert and Raymond pleaded not guilty Thursday in Niagara Falls City Court. Each was ordered held in custody in lieu of $100,000 cash bail or a $200,000 bond.

Police declined to release any further information about the third suspect being sought.

James Faso, the defense attorney who represented Herbert at the arraignment Thursday, said he believes his client and Raymond have a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.

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