A week after a stray bullet killed a 12-year-old boy, investigators are looking into the possibility he was the innocent victim of a violent gang feud in the neighborhood around Towne Gardens shopping center.
The FBI's street gang unit, already involved in the prosecution of a Towne Gardens gang, is now helping with the Buffalo Police Department's investigation into the killing of Badraldeen Mohamad Elwaseem.
The fatal shooting near Towne Gardens is the latest act of violence in a neighborhood federal prosecutors believe is rife with gang rivalries.
The government, in an indictment last year, detailed more than a dozen shootings involving feuding gang members in the East Side neighborhood adjacent to downtown and suggested that rivalries abound.
"That's the government's belief," said Anthony J. Lana, a lawyer for an alleged gang member accused of two murders. "They believe there's a turf war down there."
Lana is quick to add that his client, Dalvon Curry, was never part of any gang.
The Buffalo police and FBI are not commenting on whether the shooting was gang-related, but Towne Gardens Plaza is next door to the housing complex that federal prosecutors believe served as a base of operations for the CBL/BFL street gang.
The FBI arrested Curry and 11 other alleged members of the gang last August and linked them to the shootings that took place over a three-year period leading up to mid-2017.
Investigated by the FBI's Safe Streets Task Force, the CBL/BFL gang is believed to have formed in 2009 and used the housing complex as a base of operations and sold drugs — cocaine, heroin and fentanyl — out of their homes.
Federal prosecutors say the gang was so bold, it documented its drug dealing and violence in rap videos and social media.
"In every major city in the U.S., there’s a gang problem,” Marcello Falconetti, supervising special agent of the Buffalo task force, said at the time of the arrests. “Our purpose is to dismantle the most violent gangs in the city.”
Six months later, Falconetti's multi-agency task force is investigating a new murder and trying to determine if the seventh-grader known as Badr was the latest victim of gang violence in the neighborhood.
The boy was inside his family's second-floor apartment a little after 8:30 p.m. April 6 when a bullet came flying into his house and struck him in the head. He was rushed to Oishei Children's Hospital but could not be saved.
Badr was killed when gunfire erupted across the street in the parking lot of the Towne Gardens shopping plaza at William Street and Jefferson Avenue.
The shooting took place in what the FBI claims is turf controlled by a gang with many names.
One is CBL, which stands for “Cash Been Long,” and another is BFL, or “Brothers For Life.” The letters are also acronyms for cruder monikers.
Formed a decade ago, the gang was based in Towne Gardens, a housing complex made up mostly of Section 8 subsidized townhomes and apartments and a few market-rate residences, court documents say.
Some of the suspects lived in the housing complex, and residents and civic leaders have long complained about crime there.
The gang’s turf, which they referred to as “down the way,” went beyond the housing complex and included an area bounded by Genesee Street to the north, Seneca Street to the south, Michigan Avenue to the west and Stanton Street to the east.
Investigators say the gang used the parking lots and storefronts in and around Towne Gardens to sell drugs.
Gang members controlled their territory by using violence, according to the federal indictment against them. It mentions two murders and alleges that Curry, 26, was the gunman behind both of them.
In the first homicide, prosecutors say Curry shot and killed rival gang member Jaquan Sullivan in December 2015. Police reports at the time said Sullivan was shot on Parkdale on the city’s West Side and found around the corner on Potomac Avenue. He was 19 at the time.
Curry is also charged in the shooting death of Xavier Wimes on New Year’s Day 2017.
According to the indictment, several members of the CBL/BFL gang beat up the 22-year-old Cheektowaga man inside an apartment where they were holding a party and tried to keep him trapped. Wimes escaped by jumping out of a window and breaking his leg in the fall.
Prosecutors say Curry later tracked Wimes down on Byrd Way, which runs parallel to William near Jefferson, and shot him at about 1 a.m., making Wimes the city's first homicide of the new year.
Like most of the defense lawyers in the case, Lana insists his client is innocent and pointed to the lack of evidence linking him to killings or the CBL/BFL.
"He's denying any association with any gang or group," he said.
Buffalo police are leading the investigation into last week's shooting and are asking anyone with information to call the confidential TIP-CALL line at 847-2255. People can also call Crime Stoppers Buffalo at 867-6161.
The FBI and Crime Stoppers are offering a combined $12,500 reward for information that leads to the arrest of Badr's killer.