As an 8-year-old boy who was shot in the head struggles to recover, activists urge anyone with information about the shooting to come forward and help bring justice for the boy’s family.
Donnell “Donny” Bibbes remained in critical condition Saturday in the pediatric intensive care unit at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, where he was surrounded by family, a hospital spokesman said.
Donnell was shot in the head while sitting in a parked car with his mother and two older brothers late Thursday on South Division Street, and police say one of the older brothers was the target in a gang-related shooting.
It was the second shooting of a young boy this summer, a pair of incidents that grabbed the attention of elected officials and community leaders during a season marked by violence.
This weekend, members of the Black Lives Matter movement said it’s time for the people who know what happened to Donnell to say something to the police, or to someone who can relay a message to investigators.
Katrinna Martin-Bordeaux and Duncan Kirkwood also encouraged the gunman to turn himself in to authorities, because that’s safer than whatever could await him on the street the longer this plays out. Martin-Bordeaux said local attorney Matthew Albert has agreed to represent the gunman. They said they hope that offer, and the public’s sense of outrage, brings this to an end soon.
“We’re taking a stand as a community,” Martin-Bordeaux said.
The shooting took place Thursday night after Donnell’s mother, Chawniqua Johnson, had driven her three sons to visit a relative on the 400 block of South Division Street.
Before the family got out of the car, the shooter got out of another vehicle and approached Johnson’s, according to police. The shooter opened fire with a handgun from about 20 to 30 feet away and fired as many as 15 bullets.
The intended target of the shooting was believed to be Davieon White, Donnell’s 19-year-old brother, who was seated in the front seat of the car, according to police and friends of the family.
The third brother, Raheem White, 23, was seated in the back seat of the car next to Donnell, authorities said. The gunman missed his intended target and, instead, left Donnell gravely wounded.
Johnson drove away in search of help and the shooter fled in another vehicle. She spotted a police patrol car by a nearby shopping plaza and flagged it down. Her son was rushed to Women & Children’s Hospital, where he underwent two surgeries.
Johnson in a statement on Friday asked for prayers from the public for her son. The family did not have anything more to say on Saturday, according to Michael Hughes, a spokesman for the Kaleida Health hospital system.
Buffalo police weren’t saying much Saturday about their investigation. Department spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said only that the investigation continues and that anyone with knowledge of what happened is asked to call the confidential TIPCALL line at 847-2255.
Asked whether Donnell’s older brothers have said they know the identity of the gunman, or whether they are cooperating with the investigation, DeGeorge did not comment.
Community activists said it’s likely many people – family members of the gunman, friends, neighbors, perhaps even Donnell’s family members – know who shot Donnell.
“One would have a short list of people who would potentially want to do bodily harm,” Martin-Bordeaux said.
And Martin-Bordeaux and Kirkwood said they may have different reasons for not sharing this information with investigators – perhaps a sense of loyalty to the shooter, a desire to seek revenge themselves or distrust of the police.
They said those are among the reasons why many Buffalo shootings, particularly gang-related shootings, go unsolved.
Kirkwood said there is a time and a place to have the necessary discussion about what needs to happen to rebuild the bonds between city police and residents of the communities they patrol, or about the poverty and the failings of the educational system that lead to high rates of violence in our urban centers.
Right now, it’s important to help solve a crime that has weighed on Kirkwood’s heart since he, the father of three young children, first heard about it Friday morning.
Kirkwood said it’s easy to be an activist on social media, to post Facebook comments about outrages in another city across the country.
Instead, he asked, “Will you stand up, will you give information, to help our community right here?”
Martin-Bordeaux said she believes the gunman didn’t intend to shoot an 8-year-old. She said she hopes the willingness of Albert to serve as the gunman’s attorney either will persuade the shooter to turn himself in or convince someone who knows him to divulge his identity to police.
Albert represents the family of India Cummings, the 27-year-old who died in February in the Erie County Holding Center.
Martin-Bordeaux declined to say what response she has received since she and Kirkwood made a public appeal Friday night for assistance, but she said she believes the next 72 hours will prove fruitful.
“I believe more pieces to this puzzle are going to come together,” Martin-Bordeaux told The Buffalo News.
However, no arrest has been made in the other child shooting, the June 29 shooting of Juan “Macho” Rodriguez, 11. That shooting, also believed to be gang-related, occurred on Humason Avenue near the Cheektowaga border.
Juan heard gunshots and rushed to the door to help his younger siblings, who were playing outside in the Schiller Park neighborhood. Juan, who was not the intended target, suffered brain damage and is still in the hospital recovering.