Homicide victims getter younger, arrests getting fewer anti-violence activists lament

Jul 6, 2017

Right after his graduation from Buffalo's Math, Science, Technology Preparatory School at Seneca, Jequan Wilson posted the image of his high school diploma on Facebook. Hours later, he became another victim of Buffalo's street violence.

Activists list Wilson, who died on June 26, as the 27th homicide victim in Buffalo this year. There have been few arrests. There were plenty of reasons listed during Wednesday's anti-violence meeting sponsored by We Are Women Warriors at the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library.

Billie Webster from SNUG (guns spelled backwards), whose son was murdered and remains unsolved, said Wilson had been at a similar meeting two months ago. He continues his activism in an attempt to make sure it does not happen to other parents.

He said SNUG's program has handled 43 young people, successfully.

Credit File Photo

"That hadn't picked the gun up since we put them in it, through SNUG program, 43. I have people tell me you can't stop them boys from shooting each other. Well, guess what. We have the majority working," Webster said. "We got them back to school. We got the GEDs. And, you know what, they cry on our shoulders at one or two in the morning, call me like I'm their father. Because our Black men are running about, leaving their kids."

Still, Webster said government has to do more, from more hours in community centers and more jobs, to coming through with promised funding to activist groups faster.

Cheri Elias, the mother of two young men who were murdered by killers that have never been arrested, also was there. Her first son was shot in 2008, then lingered at Erie County Medical Center for eight months. Her second son died instantly from a stab wound less than a year later. Elias said she works against violence because she has to.

"Every time I watch the news and I see that someone else's kid has been killed, I feel their pain. I cry," she said. "I want to go to those parents and embrace them and hug them. I can't tell them its going to be all right because I don't know when I'm going to be all right. I don't lie to anybody, not about this pain."

Green Party mayoral candidate Terrance Robinson said he has been burying young black men for 50 years and it does not stop.

Homicide prosecutor Joseph Agro said both the victims and the killers are getting younger and younger, and there is a key reason why killers are not being arrested.

"Twenty-seven murders in the city. Our office right now is probably prosecuting only, I don't even know, a handful, three or four," Agro said. "And I don't have the exact number, but that's the reality. And the reality is that probably a lot of those were witnessed by multiple people and no one's coming forward."