Robert "Little Man" Brown was likely the main target when two men -- one armed with a 9 mm gun and the other, a .22-caliber gun -- shot and killed four people Saturday night inside a Koons Avenue house, homicide investigators said Tuesday.
Lt. Kenneth Bienko, commander of the Homicide Squad, said two of the victims, Stacie Guest, 39, and Gregory Conwell, 42 -- who were visiting -- were likely just "in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Detectives now believe that Tonisha Brown, 26, who also lived at the home at 320 Koons, was shot last.
Tonisha Brown was the only one shot at a distance, struck in the neck as she ran out of the house, while the remaining three victims were shot at close range, according to detectives. Most of the victims were shot in the head, police said.
These are among new details revealed Tuesday about the execution-style slayings. The suspects are two men who family members say were frequent visitors to the home and were considered almost like family.
Justin Thompson, 24, of Goulding Avenue, and Domenick Sutton, 22, of Donovan Drive, are charged with four counts of second-degree murder.
Investigators are exploring motives, including drugs and counterfeit money.
Sources who asked not to be identified said Sutton was a "three-star general" in the notorious Bloods gang, a mid-level leader in the violent street gang's hierarchy.
But "the gang involvement doesn't seem to come into play with this shooting," Bienko said. "It appears to be more of a personal dispute vs. the Bloods angle. We believe the original argument that prompted the shooting was with Robert Brown. It started with him and then escalated with the other people involved."
Thompson was arraigned Tuesday before Buffalo City Court Judge Debra L. Givens. Handcuffed, Thompson stood in the courtroom beside his lawyer, veteran trial attorney Carl Dobozin. He entered a plea of not guilty and was denied bail. Felony hearings for him and Sutton are scheduled Friday.
"He turned himself in because he didn't do anything wrong," Dobozin told reporters.
"He came to my office because he didn't want to be on the street," he added. "They said they were looking for him. The best thing to do when someone is being looked for by the police is to surrender with an attorney."
In court, the judge rejected Dobozin's motion that there are insufficient details on Thompson's charges in the police arrest report.
"What they've got on him, God only knows. . . . This is ridiculous," said Dobozin, outside the courtroom. "If they had something on him, they'd put something in the papers besides a police officer's statement that says he shot someone, wouldn't they?"
Thompson and Sutton have had previous brushes with the law.
When Thompson was arrested on Monday, he had three warrants for traffic violations -- most of them for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
On June 14, 1998, Thompson, then 17, was one of eight men arrested on charges of selling crack cocaine in Hamlin Park. At the time, Northeast District officers said the men were standing in the street and blocking pedestrian traffic on Butler Avenue near Wohlers Avenue.
Police said they confiscated seven grams of crack that had been thrown under a vehicle near where the men were standing.
Thompson was charged with felony possession of drugs, obstructing governmental administration, loitering and disorderly conduct.
According to police reports, Thompson has a scar on his chest from a gunshot wound.
Sutton also has been shot. He was a passenger in a car that pulled up to Humboldt Parkway and Northland Avenue about 9:20 p.m. last Aug. 16, when he was shot in the neck.
Police said three or four men, all dressed in black clothing, fired three rounds at the car. The driver took Sutton to the emergency room of Sisters Hospital, where he was treated.
On Sept, 18, 2002, Sutton, then 19, was one of five men arrested at a suspected drug house on Germain Street.
Northwest District officers found 6 1/2 ounces of crack cocaine, a digital scale, two beaters with cocaine residue and 2 ounces of marijuana. They also seized a semiautomatic rifle, a .357-caliber Magnum revolver and a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol.
Sutton was arrested on six charges -- two counts of felony criminal possession of a controlled substance, felony criminal possession of a weapon, misdemeanor criminal possession of a weapon, and two counts of misdemeanor criminal use of drug paraphernalia.
On Oct. 21, 2003, he was convicted of misdemeanor criminal possession of a weapon in Erie County Court; the five remaining charges were dismissed. He was later sentenced to one year in jail.