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Lockport man sentenced to 25 years in shooting that left victim paralyzed

LOCKPORT – Standing next to her paralyzed, wheelchair-bound son Monday, Lisa Baker of Lockport angrily denounced the man who shot him.

“You aspire to be a thug, and that’s all you’ll ever be,” Baker told Josiah J. Chandler. “It doesn’t matter what you study or how many people you bump with your knuckles.”

Chandler, 19, of Genesee Street, Lockport, was sentenced to 25 years in prison and five years of post-release supervision for trying to kill Colton Baker-Durst, then 20, near the corner of Church and Green streets in Lockport about 12:30 a.m. Nov. 26.

Chandler pleaded guilty as charged to the full indictment – attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon – in exchange for a promised sentence of no more than 25 years in prison. Under the law, Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon could have given him up to 40 years.

Lockport police originally charged the case as a black-on-white hate crime. Baker said an eyewitness reported Chandler’s comments at the scene to police. She said to Chandler: “Your last words to my son were, ‘You’re gonna die tonight, white boy.’ ”

Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann did not pursue a hate crime indictment, concluding that it would add the need for extra proof without lengthening Chandler’s potential sentence.

Baker said in court, “This is not a black-and-white issue. This is one American citizen shooting another American citizen.”

Hoffmann said the shooting was caught on surveillance video from a nearby building, and Sheldon said, “When I saw that video, I gasped.”

“Mr. Chandler followed the victim up the street,” Hoffmann said. “We know from the evidence he fired five shots.” Baker-Durst was hit four times. “My son is paralyzed from the T4 vertebra down. He will never walk again,” Baker said.

She declined to make her son available for an interview. She also criticized Chandler for smiling and laughing with his family before court. “It must feel good from Josiah to have his family here to laugh on his last day before sentencing,” Baker said. But she added later, “He did not come from bad people. He came from good people.”

Hoffmann said that Chandler went home after the shooting and buried his gun in the backyard of his home, but not before taking the shell casings out. He buried them separately, along with a box of live rounds. She also said that when police confiscated Chandler’s clothes, they smelled of bleach. “His actions during this incident were very deliberate and precise,” the prosecutor said.

Baker told Chandler, “As I stand here and look you in the eye, I do not believe you have one bit of remorse.”

Chandler said, “I want to say sorry to the Baker family, and my personal apologies to the victim.”

Hoffmann said there was no evidence they knew each other, and the shooting stemmed from a street confrontation in which Chandler felt disrespected.

Defense attorney Robert Viola said Chandler had been drinking. “This whole tragic scenario was fueled by the alcohol,” Viola said.

He said the victim’s mother “doesn’t know this young man is extremely remorseful. He’s sick about it.”

Viola admitted that at first, Chandler lied to police, but video shows that after detectives left him alone in the interview room for a few minutes, “His values kicked in.” He knocked on the door, summoned the police, and confessed.

Sheldon said Chandler was involved with Lockport Youth Court because of past troubles, but he broke its rules by drinking, breaking curfew and carrying a loaded gun.

“He knew exactly what the right things to do were, and he made many wrong decisions that morning that led us to this horrible tragedy,” the judge said.

“I try to take responsibility for what I did,” Chandler said.

“You said you were pulled into the streets?” Sheldon asked.

“I made my own choice,” Chandler answered.

The judge’s last comment was, “Nobody will leave this courtroom happy today. Two families are destroyed. My heart goes out to everyone in this courtroom except Mr. Chandler.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com