Gunfire shattered the calm of a sleeping neighborhood early Tuesday morning, and when police arrived, they found two mortally wounded young people who had been shot in a cab as they sat parked in front of their home on the 400 block of Minnesota Avenue.
Shameka Harris, 28, managed to get out of the bullet-riddled cab she drove, but she collapsed on a small patch of grass in front of her home.
Joshua “Bigs” Eatmon, her 23-year-old boyfriend, made it to the driveway.
Both were pronounced dead in Erie County Medical Center.
Homicide detectives are searching for the killer and a motive. But the double homicide did not appear to be a random attack, one police source said.
“We believe it is drug-related and they were targeted,” a police official said.
Signs of the violence and the frantic effort to save Harris and Eatmon were easily spotted at midday Tuesday. A resuscitator mask was discarded on the front lawn along with green latex gloves. Across the street where Harris’ cab had been parked was a pile of shattered glass from the taxi, which police impounded as evidence.
“Over there, where the glass is,” said neighbor Curtis Lewis, pointing across the street from where the couple lived. “That’s where the shooting happened. I heard about eight gunshots.”
Other neighbors also said they awakened to the sound of as many as eight shots.
“I thought it was firecrackers going off,” Elroy Ford said. “It was just after midnight.”
Harris and Eatmon moved into the 1½-story white, wood-frame house at 455 Minnesota several months ago and were described as friendly.
“Shameka worked any shift they would give her,” a neighbor said, declining to give her name.
“ ‘Bigs’ had been in a car accident and hurt his neck, and he stayed home and watched the kids. Shameka was trying to make ends meet.”
For the last three years, Harris drove a cab on and off for Buffalo Transportation and was regarded as a responsible worker with a good sense of humor, according to her fellow employees.
“She just started working again three weeks ago after taking a month off for personal reasons. She always told me she needed to make more money for her kids, and I gave her shifts to work,” her boss said. “It wasn’t easy for her. We’re taking up a collection and going to give the money to her family.”
Relatives described her as a devoted mother.
“She worked hard and was a loving mother,” said Bobby Purdue Sr., father of Bobby Jr., who sat quietly in the back seat of a car looking out at the house he shared with his mother.
Neighbor Shani Gaymon spoke well of Eatmon.
“He’d help people out,” Gaymon said. “I never knew him to cause any harm.”
But authorities confirmed Eatmon had an extensive criminal record. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to third-degree robbery and was sentenced to one year on probation. He soon violated that probation, earning him five years on probation, court records show.
He was still on probation when police announced in February 2009 that they were searching for him in connection with the rape of a 14-year-old girl a month earlier. In May of that year, he pleaded guilty to third-degree rape and was sentenced to one year in jail, court records show
Minnesota Avenue residents offered contrasting views about the safety of their neighborhood.
One woman who lives several doors away from the shooting said the 400 block of Minnesota has experienced fewer crimes in recent months since the city installed a police surveillance camera at the intersection of Minnesota and Suffolk Street.
“It’s safe most of the time, except sometimes when people sell drugs,” the resident of five years said.
Lewis, the neighbor who lives next door to the deceased, was more wary. “I’m going out to look for another place to live,” he said. “I’ve been living here since 2002, and this place is deadly.”
Chief of Detectives Dennis J. Richards is overseeing the case, working with Homicide Detectives Mario Pratts and Anthony Borrelli.
News Staff Reporter Maki Becker contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org