While Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda says they are close to making arrests in several recent shooting cases, they are still in need of information which can help bring the shooters to justice. Friday in Mayor Byron Brown's office, rewards were announced for several still-unsolved cases.
Five cases were highlighted during Mayor Brown's news conference. Two involve children that were hit by gunfire and three of the five featured cases proved fatal. The mayor announced rewards of $2,500 in each case for information that results in arrests and convictions of those responsible.
Brown said in all of the cases featured, the victims were not intended targets.
"We know in all of these cases, they are individuals who have seen something, who have heard something or who have overheard something," Mayor Brown said. "In all of these cases that have occurred in 2016, the police do have leads.”
But getting people to come forward has been the challenge. In some cases, city officials believe people may withhold information because they are either involved or have ties to those who were. In other cases, it's because of fear of retribution.
The most recent shooting victim featured, 8-year-old Donnell Bibbes, remains in critical condition after investigators say he was struck in the head by gunfire last week as he sat inside a car on the 400 block of South Division Street. Reverend James Giles, speaking on behalf of the group Buffalo PeaceMakers, spoke of visiting the youngster at the hospital.
"He’s got his head in bandages. He’s got tubes coming from all parts of his body," Giles said. "We have to say something. This is what justice means and whoever is doing this, it means that those of you who are not saying anything... it could be your little brother, your little cousin.”
The other youth victim highlighted was Juan Rodriguez, age 11, who was shot in the front entrance of his home on Humason Avenue as he urged his siblings to get inside and get away from a shootout in progress in his neighborhood. He remains in critical condition, according to city officials.
Carolyn Smith, the mother of highlighted victim Dalen Smith, spoke and said that "every day I need to remind myself to breathe." She urged the public to come forward with information that can help police solve her son's murder, which happened on June 3. He was shot and killed as he stood on the corner of Fillmore and French.
"There is nothing anybody can say to me that will make me feel better," Mrs. Smith said. "But as a parent, we're asking somebody, anybody, everybody who knows anything about what has happened, not only to my son Dalen but to anyone on this list today, please come forward."
Another one of the highlighted cases was Shakila Cottrell, who was fatally shot while attending a block party on Shumway Street back on August 20. Her family was also present at Mayor Brown's news conference but declined to comment.
Also featured was the case of Christina Banks, who was fatally shot as she sat inside her home on Vermont Street on July 25. Police say shots were fired outside. One of the rounds entered her home through a window and struck her in the neck.
Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda told reporters that his people are close to making arrests but joined the mayor's call for more information. And he forwarded a message to families of cases not spotlighted at the news conference.
"I want the victims from other families, the victims we’re not highlighting today, to know that we are working on their cases also. We will be announcing more rewards in the near future," Derenda said.