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Accused Falls arsonist faces new charges of attempted murder

NIAGARA FALLS – A Niagara Falls man who was being held on arson charges for his alleged role in a Jan. 1 boardinghouse fire was arraigned Friday on a new charge – attempted murder, for allegedly shooting and injuring a man on Dec. 7.

Jerome Wingfield, 32, of Main Street, was already being held without bail on the arson charge when he was arraigned Friday morning on new charges in Niagara Falls City Court. In addition to second-degree attempted murder, Wingfield also was charged with first-degree assault and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

Wingfield is charged in connection with the shooting of Darius L. Washington, 46, who was shot at 8 p.m. Dec. 7 in an alley in the 200 block of 22nd Street. Police said Washington was hit by several bullets, suffering injuries to both legs, his abdomen and groin area. He spent several weeks in Erie County Medical Center recovering from his injuries, police reported.

Police said Wingfield incorrectly thought Washington was in a relationship with his former girlfriend.

At the time of the shooting, Wingfield was wanted on domestic violence charges for an incident involving the girlfriend. Police said he started the fire on Niagara Street after breaking into an apartment of the woman, who was not home at the time.

He now has been charged in all three events.

Detective Lt. John Conti said the shooting was “not a random act.”

The boardinghouse was extensively damaged and more than 20 people were left homeless by the fire, which happened at 7:15 p.m. Jan. 1 at 1967 Niagara St. The fire started in a bedroom on the second floor and firefighters had to use ladder trucks to rescue residents who were trapped. One man suffered a broken leg when he jumped from an upper window.

Wingfield was arrested the following day and an alleged accomplice, Wilber T. Haynes, 70, a resident of the boardinghouse, was charged Monday.

Both men were charged with second-degree arson, second-degree burglary and first-degree reckless endangerment. Wingfield remains held without bail and Haynes’ bail was set Monday at $100,000.