A 17-year-old Kenyan native has been charged with fatally stabbing a 16-year-old East Side resident during a fight on the West Side last Thursday night, police and city officials said Monday.
Muridi Mohamed allegedly stabbed Dai'John Johnson in front of his Vermont Street home in Buffalo's culturally diverse West Side during a brawl involving as many as 20 people.
But whether ethnic differences figured into the slaying, a possibility raised by a community activist, remains under investigation, according to Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda.
Also, it has not been determined whether a Sunday night fire at Mohamed's home on the 300 block of Vermont was intentionally set, the commissioner said.
At a Monday afternoon City Hall news conference, Mayor Byron W. Brown said information provided by witnesses played a key role in taking Mohamed into custody Saturday and then charging him with second-degree murder Sunday.
"It sends a clear message that if people come forward with good information, our police will solve the crime," Brown said.
Mohamed attends Buffalo public schools and has been in the United States about five years, according to police.
Arlee Daniels Jr., chairman of the Stop Violence Coalition, said there are indications the killing may have been motivated by cultural differences.
"The Stop the Violence Coalition went over Friday evening to Vermont Street and organized a prayer vigil with residents from at least five or six different cultures," he said.
Residents were told at the gathering that the actions of one young man cannot be allowed to affect relations among different groups, Daniels said.
"We would like to see residents from all ethnicities live in peace," he said, adding that anyone in need of grief support can contact his organization at its 24-hour hotline, 882-7882.
When Brown was asked what the city is doing to promote harmony in diverse neighborhoods, he said police have conducted public safety seminars with members of the immigrant community, taken steps to promote anti-bullying awareness, and the city has set aside summer jobs for young people in the various communities.
In addition, the mayor said he attends cultural celebrations and community meetings in the different immigrant communities to promote harmony.
"There are close to 80 different languages spoken in Buffalo public schools," he said.
Derenda said a motive for the killing remains under investigation.
"People who live next door to each other for 20 years can't get along," he said, making a point that neighbor trouble is nothing new.
He also credited the public with coming forward to help solve the homicide.
"This arrest would not have been possible if witnesses hadn't come forward with a nickname for the suspect. B District officers picked him up on Hampshire Street," the commissioner said.
Because there was a large number of witnesses, Derenda urged others to contact the Homicide Squad at 851-4468. "Whatever more information we get will only help in the prosecution," he said.