NIAGARA FALLS – Summer came to a violent end this year in Niagara Falls with a rash of homicides and a number of shootings and armed robberies.
And autumn has picked up right where summer left off.
“We hope that this is just an abnormal cycle and it is not a pattern,” Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John R. Chella said. “We are going to treat it as a bad cycle.”
The violence prompted a community rally earlier this month and had Chella decrying the fact that police are not getting enough help from the victims in some cases.
Among the incidents that occurred in August and September are:
• The death of 5-year-old Isabella S. Tennant of Cheektowaga, whose body was found stuffed in a garbage can in an alley between Third and Fourth streets, several blocks away from her great-grandparents’ home Aug. 27.
• The Sept. 25 shooting death of Luis A. Ublies, 37, who was found shot near his home in the 1600 block of South Avenue.
• The gruesome murder of Loretta J. Gates, 30, of Niagara Falls. Gates who had been missing since Aug. 25, was found in pieces, with parts of her body found in the Niagara River on Aug. 29 by state police and more body parts found later in Hyde Park by Niagara Falls police.
Chella said Gates’ case has not been labeled a Niagara Falls homicide because police have not yet determined if Gates was killed in the city. But police have made arrests in the other two. In each, someone well known to the victim was charged.
In Isabella’s case, a close family friend, John R. Freeman Jr., who often cared for the young girl, is accused of choking the girl when she would not stop crying.
In the Ubiles case, his nephew Darious M. Belton, 18, is accused of shooting him in the chest following a family argument.
The city also had five reported armed and attempted robberies of 7-Eleven stores in September. One suspect, Paul J. Schubert, 21, of Garden Avenue, who told clerks he had a gun but did not display it, was charged in three cases, but while he was in custody two more armed robberies were reported in late September.
Police were still looking for a suspect or suspects last week.
Another shooting victim, Michael Williams, 45, of Third Street, is recovering in stable condition in Erie County Medical Center after being shot twice in the chest at 9:30 p.m. Sept. 21 outside his Third Avenue home. Williams told police he heard gun shots outside his home and was shot in the chest when he went to investigate, according to Detective Lt. Michael Trane.
“He told us he has no idea why he was shot,” Trane said.
Community members and city leaders responding to the gun violence held an “Emergency Response” rally last Friday at 18th Street and South Avenue.
The Rev. Jimmie Seright, the program director of SNUG – GUNS spelled backward – and executive director of the New Jerusalem Reporting Center for Boys, said he wants the community to come together in a show of support to stop gun violence. But he said he is frustrated because the people he wants to take notice are the ones who are using guns in the streets.
“When we do these rallies [it is to speak to] the people who are involved in these types of incidents or are of a mind to do something stupid like this,” Seright said.
“This [rally] is to let people know this will not be tolerated. We have to speak out against [the violence.] We will do whatever we can to stop this from happening in our community,” Seright said.
Chella said that speaking out is vital and that cooperation from the community and victims makes a difference in getting violent criminals off the streets.
“I can’t stress that enough. It seems to be the prevailing attitude among some of our violence victims that they either didn’t see anything, don’t know anything and don’t know who did it. We know differently in some of the cases, and there is nothing we can do to demand cooperation,” Chella said.
Chella said he needs the community’s help to prevent violence and he needs victims to start talking.
“It’s frustrating when a victim is uncooperative,” he said. “It’s been a problem for this generation of law enforcement that we never had in the past. And we also hope that unwillingness to help as a victim is not because tomorrow you are going to take revenge and be a suspect.”