A holiday gathering among friends turned into a night of horror for some Titus Avenue residents who were terrorized Christmas Eve by two men claiming to be associated with a Los Angeles drug gang, police said Tuesday.
The five men and women living in the two apartments at a Titus Avenue address were held at gunpoint for about two hours while being tied up, robbed and repeatedly threatened, police said. One woman was raped, they said.
The intruders apparently believed the residents were drug dealers who had drugs and money for them, according to police.
The residents, who have been living in the house for more than a year, told the intruders that they weren't involved with drugs and didn't have what the gang members wanted, police said.
One victim told The Buffalo News that the five residents were convinced they were going to die. The victims believe the only reason they weren't shot is because the intruders had sympathy for several children in the house at the time.
"We saw it in their faces. They'd have killed us if the kids weren't there; they had sympathy for the kids," one victim said.
Based on police reports and an interview with one victim, this is what occurred:
The residents of the lower apartment invited the upstairs neighbors down for a small Christmas Eve gathering. They were talking and drinking champagne when they heard knocking on the back door about 11 p.m.
"One of the guys went to the back door to see who it was," said Broadway Station Officer Thomas Beyer. "There were two guys back there, and they said, 'Lonnie sent us.' "
When the resident responded, "Who's Lonnie?" the two men pushed the door open and came in the house. At first, they were friendly and had a few drinks with the residents.
But shortly, the two men announced they were with the Crips, a Los Angeles drug gang, and that they had come for drugs and money. The residents told the men they must have the wrong house, that no one there had drugs or drug money.
But the intruders apparently didn't believe them. Each pulled out a gun and held the people at gunpoint while tying the five adults up with duct tape. Three children were not tied up but were forced to remain in the downstairs apartment.
One intruder stayed downstairs with the residents, while the other ravaged both apartments, looking for drugs and money.
One man fired a single shot through the refrigerator and also took one woman to the upstairs apartment, where he raped her.
The man also took about $300 from the woman as well as some jewelry in her apartment.
After about two hours, the intruders said they were leaving.
They said there were people outside the house with machine guns who would kill anyone who tried to leave.
After a while, the residents were able to untie themselves and contacted police. Officers Beyer and Joseph Makowski and Lt. Mark Taggart arrived about 12:50 a.m. Tuesday.
Police said they haven't confirmed if the two intruders are Crips. Gang members have appeared in Buffalo in the past. No arrests have been made.
Police didn't release the names of the victims, and the victim who spoke to The News didn't disclose his name. The man said the others were doing fine but were too upset to talk about the ordeal.
"This has been the worst Christmas ever," the man said.