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Homicide toll rises as parents of victims appeal for end to violence

It’s been three months since Carolyn Smith’s son was shot and killed.

Dalen Smith, 28, was standing at the corner of French Street and Fillmore Avenue at about 8 p.m. on June 8.

He wasn’t doing anything wrong, nor was he the intended target, according to Buffalo police.

Smith – the son of a Buffalo police officer – was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, when gunshots rang out that night.

Since then, nothing has been the same, said Smith’s mother, Carolyn.

“I am standing here, a mother with a broken heart,” Carolyn Smith said. “Every day, I have to remind myself to breathe, because I hold my breath so often.”

“As a mother,” she continued, “there is nothing anybody can say to me to make me feel better.”

Carolyn Smith was standing in Mayor Byron W. Brown’s office Friday along with other parents of shooting victims, most too distraught to talk.

The parents joined Brown and city police in asking the public for help in solving a recent rash of unsolved murders and other shootings in Buffalo.

Rewards of $2,500 are being offered, Brown said, in five recent shootings, for information leading to the arrests of the alleged shooters. All five, like Smith, were innocent victims, Brown said.

In addition to the Smith killing, rewards are being offered for information leading to arrests in four other cases:

• Shakila Cottrell, 25, who was attending a block party on Shumway Street on Aug. 20 when, at about 2:30 a.m., multiple shots rang out. Cottrell was struck by one of the bullets, and died.

• Christina Banks, 27, who was sitting in her home at 257 Vermont St. when shots were fired outside at about 10:30 p.m. One of the rounds came through the house window, striking Banks in the neck. She died.

• Juan Rodriguez, 11, who opened the front door of his Humason Avenue home on June 29 to usher in his siblings to safety after he heard gunshots outside. Juan was struck in the head by a bullet. He remains in critical condition at Erie County Medical Center.

• Donnell Bibbes, 8, who was a backseat passenger in a car parked on South Division Street when the vehicle was sprayed with gunfire on Aug. 25. Donnell was shot in the head. He also remains in critical condition at ECMC.

The plea for the public’s help in solving these cases came the same day that two more people were killed in Buffalo.

A 52-year-old man was stabbed to death at about 8:15 a.m. Friday, on the 200 block of Oakmont Avenue, during what authorities said was a dispute with a 30-year-old man, William Hemphill, who was charged with second-degree murder, according to Buffalo police.

About half an hour after the fatal stabbing, police said, a man was shot in the East Delavan Avenue-Floss Avenue area. The victim, 51, was taken to ECMC, where he died, police said.

Buffalo police are also investigating a body discovered just after 1 p.m. Friday on 4th Street near the tennis courts.

An autopsy will be performed by the Erie County Medical Examiners office.

Also Friday, some community activists organized a stop-the-violence rally in Niagara Square in front of City Hall.

Among the speakers was Paul McQuillen with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, who urged licensed gun owners to make sure their weapons are secured in their homes to prevent them from being stolen.

More than 600 guns were reported lost or stolen in Buffalo between 2010 and 2015, McQuillen said.

Such weapons, he said, are often used to commit crimes.

There have been 34 homicides in Buffalo so far this year, according to city police. At least 210 shootings have taken place, according to a Buffalo News count.

Few of this year’s homicides have been solved, Buffalo police acknowledge. In addition to the Oakmont Avenue stabbing, the Police Department website says just three of this year’s other homicides have been solved, but Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said he would have to check to see if the website is up to date.

Many of the homicides and other unsolved shootings are gang-related, said Derenda.

In many instances, Derenda said, police are close to solving the crimes, but need additional information to make arrests.

That’s where the public comes in, Derenda and Brown said.

Anyone who has seen or heard anything, or overheard anything, is being asked to contact police, Brown said.

“Sometimes,” the mayor said, “people hear of people being shot, and if it’s not their family, they say ‘It cannot happen to me.’ In all five of these cases,” Brown said, referring to the reward victims, “they were innocent victims, innocent people just going about their everyday lives and either critically wounded or killed.”

Bringing the shooters to justice will help the families of the victims, Carolyn Smith said.

“As a parent, we are asking, anybody who knows anything that happened – to not only my son, but anyone on this list – to please come forward,” she said. “Please help us get justice. Help us so that we can breathe once again.”

email:sschulman@buffnews.com and jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com

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