A 17-year-old Buffalo resident was arraigned Friday morning in two separate shooting incidents, one of which killed a local youth football coach who was trying to break up an altercation. If convicted in both trials, Jason Washington could face up to 75 years to life in prison.
Washington appeared before Erie County Court Judge Susan Eagan, and through his attorney entered not guilty pleas in both cases. He is charged with Assault and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in an August 6 shooting at McCarthy Park which caused non-life-threatening injuries to a youth.
He is also charged with Second Degree Murder and Second Degree Attempted Murder in an August 31 incident which claimed the life of Norzell Aldridge.
The latter shooting happened in the vicinity of Koons Avenue and Sycamore Street in Buffalo, shortly after the conclusion of a youth football game. According to prosecutors, Washington had intervened in a fight which allegedly involved a friend. He allegedly drew a gun and tried to use it but, according to Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, the weapon failed to discharge at that time. It was then Aldridge stepped in to try and disarm Washington, but the gun was turned on him. And this time, it fired.
Flynn says inner city youth lost an important mentor that day.
"Not only is he trying to help the kids out by being a coach, he's trying to help save a life, literally here now," he said. "And he loses his life."
If convicted of all counts in both cases, Washington could face incarceration for the rest of his life. He remains held without bail following Friday's proceedings.
Flynn noted that because the crimes happened before October 1, the state's new Raise the Age statute does not apply. He expressed confidence that if it were in play, he'd still ultimately get to try Washington as an adult but he would need to "go through some hoops" for that to happen.
"The Raise the Age Law was put in place so that we would not treat 17-year-olds as an adult but there are some exceptions to that rule," he said. "Mr. Washington is an exception to that rule.
"He is committing big boy crimes here, allegedly. He deserves to be tried in big boy court, which he now is."