It started with just a bicycle.
But by late Monday morning, the outpouring of donations grew to dozens of Christmas gifts. The packages kept piling up, first across the top of a table in a conference room in Buffalo Police Headquarters; then in front of the table; then on the floor along the wall.
And there were more on the way.
The gifts wrapped in holiday paper and bundled in gift and shopping bags were for Bryan Keith Allen Jr., the 4-year-old boy who spent at least two days alone with his mother’s body in their East Delavan Avenue apartment, surviving on maple syrup and milk. The child thought his mother, 43-year-old Shaleena Hamilton, was asleep. But Hamilton had died of natural causes. Her body wasn’t discovered until a Rent-A-Center employee went to the home Dec. 4.
“Hopefully, it will make his Christmas a little bit better,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda told some family members Monday as the collection of gifts was presented.
After Buffalo homicide detectives learned of the boy’s situation, they contacted Community Police Lt. Steven Nichols, who oversees part of a state grant program under which city police give away bicycles to children in the community.
A gleaming red bicycle with black training wheels, emblazoned with “Rocket,” was part of the haul of gifts heading home for Bryan’s Christmas.
As the boy’s story spread, others joined the cause and made donations. Police Department employees collected gifts. Members of the public brought gifts to district headquarters throughout the city.
“He’s going to love this,” said Thomas Porter, Bryan’s grandfather and Hamilton’s father. “He’s not going to know what to open up first.”
Markita Buster, the child’s cousin, said the 4-year-old is doing a little bit better, though the experience obviously has been difficult.
Family members said that during his mother’s funeral, Bryan sat on his grandfather’s lap and again talked about how his mommy was sleeping.
Police credited Taijuan Littleton, the Rent-A-Center employee, with possibly preventing further tragedy by discovering the boy’s situation. Littleton said Hamilton had previously called for an appointment.
On Monday, Littleton said he knew something was wrong when the child answered the phone on that Friday morning as employees followed up on the scheduled appointment.
Littleton said he doesn’t consider himself a hero, saying God put him in the right place at the right moment. He said he hopes Bryan grows up to be “an amazing adult.”
“It was a blessing that he’s still here, and maybe there is a reason for that,” Littleton said.
Porter thanked Littleton, saying if it wasn’t for his actions, there’s no way to know how long the young child would have been alone in the apartment.
Porter said the autopsy results indicated his daughter suffered a blood clot near her heart. She died after falling down stairs and breaking her neck, Porter said.
He said his stepson, Bryan’s uncle who lives in Charlotte, is thinking about coming back and becoming caregiver for Bryan.