Before two young men were killed earlier this week, Buffalo had experienced its longest stretch of the year without deadly violence: Thirty-seven days had passed without a homicide.
But the streak was shattered Sunday night when 19-year-old Shawndez Davis was stabbed to death and a day later when 26-year-old Broderick Robinson was fatally shot.
The number of homicides so far this year is 44 and does not include the death of an elderly woman at a Delaware Avenue nursing home. She had accidentally wandered into the room of another elderly dementia patient who beat her to death.
No charges were filed against the attacker because of his diminished mental capacity, which placed the case outside the legal definition of a homicide – criminal intent to take another life.
The more than five-week period without homicides, authorities say, supports the long-held belief in law enforcement that the crime is unpredictable.
“Unfortunately there is not a predictable formula,” Buffalo Chief of Detectives Dennis J. Richards said. “Like all criminal activity, means, opportunity and desire each play a role in murders. We try to disrupt it by enforcing the law and being proactive.”
He cited Sunday night’s killing on the 900 block of Broadway as an example of the unpredictability.
It began as a domestic dispute. When it got out of control, Kearra Bailey, 18, allegedly stabbed Davis, her boyfriend. She was charged with second-degree murder.
There is no way to predict something like that, the chief said.
But Richards says with certainty that illegally obtained guns are involved in the majority of city homicides.
When Robinson was fatally shot Monday night on the 100 block of Victoria Avenue, he was the 35th person to die from gun violence this year. His killer has not been caught.
Erie County Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. says he cannot prove it, but he believes there is a direct correlation between the recent abatement in homicides and a series of arrests involving suspected gang members over the last couple of months.
“One gang member can be responsible for many shootings and if you take him off the street it reduces the risk pool,” Flaherty said in citing last month’s conviction of 19-year-old Diamond Lewis on multiple charges of murder, attempted murder and assault. Police said he was a member of the Keystone crew.
But gang violence, Flaherty adds, is unpredictable.
“Not every time, but many times in the gang violence we see, the attacks are spontaneous, meaning rivals see each other and initiate combat,” Flaherty said. “In those instances, they are not planning to assault somebody, but it just happens when they cross paths.”
Ongoing police initiatives by Ferry-Fillmore District Chief Barbara Lark and Northeast District Chief Carmen Menza to go after suspected gang members, Flaherty said, are reducing the “risk pool” of the “small percentage” of individuals willing to kill.
So far this year, the deadliest months have been August and September, each with seven homicides. The least deadliest were the first five months. In each of those months, three people were slain. November has had two homicides so far, Davis and Robinson.
And while the pace of this year's killings has slowed, 2016 is already ahead of last year. There were 42 homicides in all of 2015, two less than the 44 so far this year.