After police removed the body and tore down the crime tape, few physical reminders remained of the deadly shooting that happened just outside the Buffalo Academy of the Visual and Performing Arts on Thursday.
But those who know children, and the trauma of the streets, acknowledge some of the deepest emotional wounds following this latest killing – the 13th this month, making September the deadliest of the year – are yet to surface.
“You have a situation where there could still be some unknowns, and they’ll be discovered tomorrow,” said Will Keresztes, who oversees the district’s student support services. “The school really is a safe haven for students, but without a doubt this was uncharacteristically close.”
He noted that Thursday’s killing was likely the closest he had seen to a school campus.
The shooting happened shortly after 1:30 p.m. when a gunman fired into a car at the intersection of Woodlawn and Masten avenues. The car traveled several hundred feet before coming to a stop next to the school, which immediately went into lockdown. Police believe a second vehicle was involved.
When they arrived at the scene, they found the 28-year-old man dead in the vehicle.
It was the latest in what has become a deadly month for the City of Buffalo. On Wednesday, police investigated the killing of a 5-month-old girl, who autopsy reports revealed suffered blunt force trauma. Police first learned of the incident when they were summoned to Women & Children’s Hospital at about 11 p.m. by medical staff who suspected foul play in the infant’s death. Her mother, Denay Foster, was arraigned in City Court on second-degree murder charges Thursday.
Police investigators barely got a break. The crime scene tape went back up Thursday as they blocked off the scene by the school, using their vehicles to block the view of onlookers.
Inside the school, classroom blinds were closed to shield the children, some as young as the fifth grade.
Police and school officials worked together to orchestrate a dismissal pattern to avoid the scene, taking small groups of students out the opposite side of the building and redirecting bus traffic.
“The children were never in harm’s way,” said Kimberly Beaty, deputy police commissioner.
Workers with several peace groups also came to the scene to assist, offering support for students as they made their way home at the end of the day. They said most left the building quietly and in an orderly fashion. Whether out of shock or familiarity, many did not seem phased by the incident.
“I think a portion of our community has come to accept this as normal,” said Lamone Gibson, a youth minister who works with Buffalo Peacemakers.
“When I was growing up, we had rules. You didn’t shoot at schools, you didn’t shoot at playgrounds. You can always find someone later. We’ve lost respect for that, and we’ve lost respect for the responsibility we have for our children.”
As the students left, family and friends of the victim took their place on the scene, awaiting official news about the investigation. Some collapsed in each others arms, sobbing as they comforted each other.
School buses circled on the surrounding streets, bringing students from all over the city back to their neighborhood.
One police officer escorted two small children under the crime tape to their home at the intersection of the shooting.
“You aren’t safe anywhere anymore,” said one friend, who had seen the victim a few hours earlier and did not want to be identified. “Expect more shootings after this.”
School leaders, meanwhile, encouraged parents throughout the city, and particularly the neighborhood, to talk to their children about what happened and reach out to the schools if they need professional help.
The district will have additional counselors and crisis workers on site Friday to offer support to students following the event.
“What’s really cruel for our children is they experience this kind of trauma on a regular basis in their neighborhoods,” Keresztes said. “It’s very important that the parents have an open dialogue with their children.”
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