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Leaders of anti-violence groups speak out in wake of Buffalo homicides

Seven people have been killed in Buffalo during an eight-day period.

In three cases, it appears the victim was not the intended target, said the Rev. James Giles, executive director of Buffalo Peacekeepers, a coalition of local violence- and gang-intervention groups.

“What really is going on is a mentality of recklessness,” said Giles, who founded Back to Basics Outreach Ministry, which offers transitional housing, substance abuse counseling and programs for youth development. “They don’t care who they hit. I’m disturbed and concerned for my community because now you have a small element that has no creed at all. They fire anywhere at anything.”

Efforts to interview Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda were not successful, but spokesman Michael DeGeorge relayed a statement from Derenda regarding the killings: “The recent homicides mainly involve individuals known to each other and appear to be targeted incidents.”

Giles said he believes the murders may be in response to a Facebook threat, a drug-related robbery or a feud.

The string of murders began on Dec. 14 with the death of Terrell Taylor, 24, who was shot at Brinkman Avenue and Rohe Street in the Bailey-Walden neighborhood. Giles believed the intended target was Taylor’s brother.

“Terrell was the wrong man,” said Giles. “He is a twin. He wasn’t an angel, but he was an OK kid who didn’t deserve to die on the street.”

On Monday, representatives of Buffalo Peacekeepers attended Taylor’s funeral at New Mount Ararat Temple of Prayer on Jefferson Avenue to ensure the service was not interrupted by rival gangs.

Two of the recent murder victims were women. Anti-violence leaders said neither victim was targeted.

• Jamilah Furquan, 16, was shot in the 500 block of Grant Street late Friday. Antonio Tucker, 20, who was with Furquan, also was shot but survived and is in stable condition in Erie County Medical Center, DeGeorge said.

• A 23-year-old woman whom police have not yet identified was killed early Monday at Manhattan and Leroy avenues in the city’s Central Park neighborhood, DeGeorge said. A 26-year-old man who was with her at the time also was struck by gunfire. He was treated and released from ECMC, DeGeorge said.

Tina Sanders, president of No More Tears, a ministry that provides support to people in crisis, does not believe either woman was targeted.

“They were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Sanders said. “It’s the company they kept.”

The murder of the 23-year-old occurred in the predawn hours one block away from Buffalo Public School 61. The school is patrolled daily by members of F.A.T.H.E.R.S., an anti-violence organization led by Lenny Lane.

“We’ve been patrolling that area for 15 years,” Lane said. “We continue to keep that area safe so kids can have safe passage to and from school.”

Lane said the shooting death “just happened” to occur near the school, located at Leroy and Grider Street.

“It had to do with a personal vendetta,” said Lane. “They do not care where they are. They just pull out their guns and shoot. They have no respect. They just fire at will. They can’t just go into a neighborhood and shoot it up.”

Lane’s organization believes more anti-violence programs should target the youngsters before they become teens. He is looking to soon sponsor another toy gun exchange in which children trade their toy gun for a nonviolent toy.

The recent shooting victims aren’t all young. Buffalo police are also investigating the deaths of two older men:

• Willie Barksdale, 44, died Sunday at ECMC after he was shot around 2 a.m. that morning at William and Spring streets, DeGeorge said.

• Lewis Browning, 61, died Dec. 17 after he was stabbed on Titus Street.

Two other murder victims died Dec. 16:

• Darren L. Rice, 20, died after he was shot on Jewett Avenue.

• Tracy Avery, 19, was shot Dec. 16 on Genesee Street and Rogers Avenue. Avery also was struck by a vehicle.

Anti-violence leaders claim they were targets of payback.

Giles blamed social media for pumping up some of the gunmen. “Facebook is a central character in these conflicts,” Giles said. “Send threats out on social media and it’s ‘game on’ again. They’ll pull the trigger in a minute. And they’re plaguing the whole town. I know it’s wild and crazy, but that’s how it is.”