Eight young people, all believed to be Bennett High School students, have been arrested in the beating of a 66-year-old man attacked last month when he tried to break up an argument between two girls at Shoshone Park.
Those arrested late Tuesday through Wednesday were part of a crowd encouraging the girls to fight. When James LeGrand started shouting for them to stop, he ended up knocked to the ground, punched, kicked and robbed of his cellphone and a digital camera that he had used to take photographs of the combatants and spectators.
LeGrand, who had been cleaning his car in the parking lot of the North Buffalo park, reported the 3 p.m. May 16 incident to police. An investigation was started, but progress was slow until last Friday.
That’s when a Buffalo police school resource officer obtained a cellphone video of the attack and passed it on to Northwest District detectives who, with resource officers, identified the attackers.
Jaquan M. Woodard, 18; Darvin Whitely Jr., 17; Quashaun Moore, 16; and Homer L. Barney Jr., 16, were identified as four of the attackers charged with third-degree assault and second-degree robbery. The name of a 17-year-old was unavailable, and the names of the three other arrested teenagers were not released because they are younger than 16 and are considered juveniles. More arrests are expected, police said.
Announcing the arrests at a news conference in Niagara Square later Wednesday, Mayor Byron W. Brown and Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda condemned the attack.
“Having seen the video two days ago, I was shocked by the violence,” Brown said, adding that LeGrand did not want to press charges “because he is someone who cares about young people.”
The mayor and district detectives convinced LeGrand that the attack could not be overlooked, and he agreed to let criminal charges move forward with his cooperation, according to Northwest District police officials.
LeGrand, who is employed by the mayor’s Impact Team, declined to comment on the case Wednesday evening.
Authorities said that in addition to shouting at the young people who were encouraging the altercation, LeGrand started taking pictures of them in the hopes that they would get the message someone was watching and that there could be consequences.
His good intentions backfired.
“Complainant then told the kids to stop fighting and was taking pictures of the kids fighting with digital camera, then complainant was struck from behind with closed fist to the right side of jaw, and complainant was bleeding and did have cuts and swelling to the face,” the police report stated.
When Derenda was asked if he found it upsetting that one of the individuals at the incident recorded it, the commissioner said, “In this case, we’re glad. The video helped in the arrests.”
People recording crimes, he said, “is the world we live in.”
School district officials and Brown said the actions of the students do not reflect most young people.
“While this incident is a police matter, we expect all of our students to be good citizens, on and off campus. The behavior in question is not at all indicative of the Bennett High School community or the majority of our students. As former principal of Bennett High School and currently as the community superintendent overseeing Bennett, we strive to instill these positive values with our students on a daily basis.”