When someone fired a barrage of bullets in a Niagara Falls neighborhood, one of them almost struck a woman who's considered "a beacon of light" in the city.
A bullet fired through the window of her home lodged in a wooden door frame about 4 feet from Joanne Lorenzo, who has fed and clothed Niagara Falls' street people for 23 years.
"I jumped up from my desk and I screamed, and I ran into the house part of the rectory," Lorenzo told a Niagara County jury Wednesday.
Lorenzo and her 16-year-old son live in the rectory of what is now St. George's Anglican Cathedral, a former Catholic church. Lorenzo's social programs are headquartered in the church basement. Lorenzo, who home-schools her son, was grading his papers in an office on the first floor of the former church rectory where she lives. It was about 5:30 p.m. on May 24, 2018.
"I was sitting in the office grading those papers when I heard five pops and a loud bang," Lorenzo testified.
The bullets were fired outside the building, Niagara County prosecutors said.
Her son, Joseph Lorenzo, heard the noise and came downstairs.
"He said, 'Mom, did you get shot?' And I said 'No,' " Lorenzo testified.
The testimony from the leader of the Magdalene Project came on the first day of Willie McTyere's trial. He's accused of firing the shot.
It appears Lorenzo was not targeted. Mary Jean Bowman, second assistant district attorney, told the jury in her opening statement that a witness outside saw a man fire several rounds at a passing sport utility vehicle.
Bowman called Lorenzo, the deaconess at St. George's, "a beacon of light in an often-tough neighborhood."
Lorenzo started Rose Café, offered about once a month at Lighthouse Church, providing dinner, worship, a message, a clothes giveaway and drawing prizes to the women who attend. Besides the Rose Café, a women-only event, Lorenzo offers a children's after-school program on Tuesdays; substance abuse recovery meetings on Thursdays; dinners for street people on Thursdays and lunches on Saturdays; and a Christmas dinner, which in December drew more than 200 people.
About a half-hour before the gunfire on that late May afternoon, Lorenzo said, she was distributing bagged meals on the sidewalk to some of the city's poor and homeless people. After two volunteers arrived to take over, she went into the rectory, which faces Falls Street, to grade her son's papers.
After the gunfire, Lorenzo said, she ran outside and saw six or seven people in the street.
"They were saying (the shooter) went down the alley between Falls Street and Cudaback (Avenue)," Lorenzo testified.
Bowman told the jury that one of the witnesses said the shooter was limping. She said McTyere had been shot in the left leg the day before and had not received any medical attention.
Bowman also said that a black .38-caliber revolver was found on a nearby lawn, and tests found McTyere's DNA on the gun and on five empty shell casings inside the revolver.
She promised to call a ballistics expert to testify that the bullet pried out of Lorenzo's door frame was fired from that gun.
"We will build this case bit by bit until it is as strong as steel," Bowman told the jury.
"It's unfortunate that (the shooting) happened. It's not critical to our case," defense attorney Brian J. Hutchison told the jury.
Hutchison, assigned to the case along with Joseph A. Scalzo, said some facts are in dispute, but he didn't tell the jury what they were.
"We anticipate some of those eyewitnesses are not going to be consistent," he said.
McTyere, 37, of Woodlawn Avenue in the Falls, is charged with first-degree reckless endangerment and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
Before the trial, he rejected a plea offer to attempted second-degree possession of a weapon with a six-year sentencing limit. The maximum sentence if he is convicted as charged is 22 years in prison.