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Falls man charged with attempted murder in shooting tied to arson

LOCKPORT – A Niagara Falls man was arraigned in Niagara County Court Thursday on attempted murder and other counts, stemming from a Dec. 7 shooting.

The indictment against Jerome Wingfield does not cover a New Year’s Day arson case for which he also was arrested, but the two were related, Assistant District Attorney Claudette S. Caldwell said at the arraignment. The arson case has yet to be presented to a grand jury.

Wingfield, 32, of Main Street, was charged with shooting Darius L. Washington, 46, several times about 8 p.m. Dec. 7 in an alley in the 200 block of 22nd Street. Police said bullets struck Washington in the groin, abdomen and both legs. Besides attempted murder, Wingfield is charged with first-degree assault and two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

Wingfield was arrested in the shooting case Jan. 8, a week after he allegedly torched the Zodiac Apartments, a boarding house at 1967 Niagara St. in the Falls.

Caldwell told Judge Matthew J. Murphy III that Wingfield had been charged in two domestic violence cases involving the violation of restraining orders obtained by Wingfield’s girlfriend, who lived in the Zodiac Apartments.

Washington was a friend of the woman, Caldwell said. Police previously said Wingfield thought Washington was in a relationship with her, but he was not.

The fire, which police said was started after Wingfield broke into the woman’s apartment, left 40 people homeless and injured five, Caldwell said.

Two other men charged with attempted murder rejected plea offers Thursday.

Thomas M. Lasher is expected to claim self-defense in an incident on New Year’s Eve, 2014, in which he shot a man who had started a relationship with Lasher’s wife.

In a confession to State Police, Lasher, 50, of Miller Road, Town of Niagara, said he took a swing at Douglas K. Walck, 43, in Walck’s home in the Expressway Village mobile home park in that town.

Walck fought back, tossing Lasher down the front steps. Lasher then went to his vehicle, grabbed a 20-gauge shotgun and returned to shoot Walck once in the abdomen. State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. has yet to rule on the admissibility of that confession.

Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann told Kloch that she doesn’t think Lasher’s attorney, Robert Goldstein, can win with a self-defense claim. Under New York law, using “deadly physical force” is allowed only if the shooter legitimately believes deadly force was about to be used against him. The shooter also has a duty to retreat from the confrontation if possible.

Hoffmann said, “Mr. Lasher had an opportunity to retreat when he went to his car and got the shotgun.”

Lasher rejected a plea offer to attempted first-degree assault, which carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 3½ years, with a maximum of 15 years. If convicted of attempted murder in a trial scheduled for Feb. 22, Lasher faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison with a maximum of 25 years.

Also Thursday before Murphy, Shannon L. Lightfoot rejected a plea offer in a May 18 drive-by shooting, in which a man was wounded in the buttocks on Highland Avenue in Niagara Falls.

Lightfoot, 27, of Garden Avenue in the Falls, turned down a plea to first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation, with a four-year maximum sentence. If he is convicted of reckless endangerment in a trial scheduled to start Feb. 29, the maximum would be seven years.

Lightfoot also is slated for an April 4 trial on two attempted murder counts, stemming from a May 30 incident in which 27 rounds allegedly were fired from an assault rifle at two men at 19th and Niagara streets in the Falls. On Dec. 15, Lightfoot rejected a plea offer with a 15-year sentencing cap; he risks a 40-year sentence if convicted in that case.