A close associate of convicted killer Donald "Sly" Green was brutally beaten Saturday in an attack that continues a four-year-old cycle of violence among East Side drug gangs.
Garland Kyser, 32, a Wende Street resident, was beaten about the head and face with a 2-by-4 on Montana Street during an attack that also involved an exchange of gunfire, Genesee Station police said.
Kyser, who was convicted last month of bribing and intimidating a key witness against Green, was listed in critical condition in the Erie County Medical Center late Saturday.
"His face was in such bad shape the ambulance crews (initially) thought he'd been shot once or twice," said Lt. Albert Devlin.
No arrests were made. Police believe at least two men were involved in the attack, Devlin said, adding that residents seemed fearful of telling officers what had happened.
"We believe it's probably connected to the other incidents involving the gangs," Inspector Thomas Kinsella said. "There are people in these gangs who keep books on things that happened and people they want to get back."
A bloodied 2-by-4 and numerous shell casings were found near Kyser in a yard at 143 Montana. A 9mm semiautomatic rifle was found on the awning of a nearby home, Devlin said.
"The gun was jammed," the lieutenant said. "Apparently, when that happened, the attackers went after him with the 2-by-4."
Police said Kyser is no stranger to them. He is believed to be a member of a gang headed by Green, a notorious city crime kingpin serving a prison sentence for murder.
Kyser was convicted Nov. 20 by an Erie County jury of bribing and intimidating James A. Wright, 43, a former church custodian who served as the key prosecution witness in Green's murder case.
Kyser has been out on bail, awaiting a sentencing Feb. 26 before County Judge Joseph McCarthy.
"He could get anywhere from probation to seven years in prison," said Kyser's attorney, Mark D. Hosken, Saturday night.
Hosken said he was surprised to hear of the attack on his client. He said Kyser had never told him he had been threatened or expressed concerns that he was in any danger.
With key eyewitness testimony from Wright, prosecutors from the Erie County district attorney's office were able to convict Green, 33, of the October 1988 drive-by shooting murder of Larnell Cottrell.
During Green's 1989 murder trial, Wright said, Kyser threatened him and forced him to take a $100 bribe. Wright blamed Kyser for terrorizing him and his family, shooting at their house, burning their car and firebombing their house in July 1989.
Wright testified during the trial that he and his family were so terrified of Kyser and his associates that they placed metal chairs around their beds at night, hoping to deflect gunfire.
Kyser, meanwhile, tried unsuccessfully to convince jurors that he was offering friendly advice when he told Wright not to testify against Green and gave him $100.
Wright is now in hiding with federal marshals as a member of the Federal Witness Protection Program.
Officers Warren Lewis and Albert Collins found Kyser about noon Saturday, bleeding profusely.
According to Devlin, several residents of the Montana Street neighborhood called 911 to report that they saw and heard shots being fired. But when officers arrived, they could find no witnesses to the beating.
The neighborhood has been the scene of several violent incidents and simmering tensions among rival drug gangs, Devlin said.
"The people who live there are living in extreme fear and frustration right now," Devlin said. "They see a very bad situation, but they see nothing they can do about it."
He said police do not know the direct reason of the attack on Kyser, but another investigator said the incident probably stems from a series of killings and attacks dating to 1986.
In March 1986, Devotie Pompey, 27, an associate of a city numbers gang, was shot to death in an alley off Fillmore Avenue.
It is believed that in retribution for Pompey's murder, Samuel R. Green, the 25-year-old brother of Donald Green, was shot to death in October 1986 on Harvard Place. Two days later, Reuben Coble, 27, who was accused of setting up Samuel Green's murder, was found shot to death in a field off East Delavan Avenue.
The October 1988 drive-by shooting death of Cottrell, 28, on Krettner Street was believed part of a turf battle between Cottrell's and Green's family. In December 1988, Larry Gaston, 41, of Krettner Street, was shot and wounded on Smith Street in another gang-linked shooting.
Police said several other shootings -- and now, Kyser's beating -- may also be linked to the drug war.
"It's too early to say right now what the motive was, but our detectives will be looking into drugs and gang connections," Devlin said.