The 14-year-old Waterfront School student charged with killing 16-year-old Kelmyne J. Jones Jr. two weekends ago was suspended from school for five days based on allegations that he carried a handgun onto a school bus in April, Buffalo school district administrators say.
Myles D. Taylor III was allowed to return to school after student witnesses refused to testify against him during his long-term suspension hearing and the alleged weapon was not seen or found during a physical search and video review, the administrators said.
The district also strongly disputed prior assertions by law enforcement officials that the school district did not contact the police regarding the alleged handgun incident. Principal David Hills spoke twice about the matter with police officers who work with the school, said Will Keresztes, the district’s chief of student support.
The first contact was made on April 11 to seek direction from police and see if there were any additional steps police should take aside from school disciplinary action, Keresztes said.
“Mr. Hills was specifically informed that because the allegation rested on hearsay and that the event reported to the principal on that day occurred earlier in the week, a police investigation was not planned,” Keresztes said. “He subsequently reported the allegation again on April 12 to a police officer in order to confirm that an investigation was not planned.”
Keresztes added that the principal would be willing to attest to these facts under oath, if necessary.
Taylor appeared briefly Tuesday afternoon in Buffalo City Court. The Northland Avenue resident faces a second-degree murder charge after being arrested as an adult.
He’s accused of shooting Jones, of Goulding Avenue, with a handgun on July 6 after a large fight between two groups of young people on Northland Avenue, police have said.
He’s never been in court before and never faced any such situation, said his defense attorney, John J. Molloy.
“The fact that he’s lost or bewildered isn’t surprising,” he said.
Reporters asked Molloy whether it was hard to understand a 14-year-old facing such a serious charge.
“I have an almost 14-year-old grandson,” the defense attorney replied. “So I guess it is. It’s very hard ... They’re kids. They’re babies.”
Taylor’s father was in the courtroom, but his mother wasn’t. His mother and her family moved from their Northland Avenue home not long after the fatal shooting. Molloy said they have been threatened, and he suggested the mother not show up in court Tuesday.
Homicide prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office told City Court Judge Amy C. Martoche that Taylor already has been indicted on a second-degree murder charge. As a result, Martoche quickly adjourned the case, which is expected to go to a higher court after the youth is arraigned.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda referred all questions on the case to city spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge, who could not be reached to comment.
Buffalo Public School officials, meanwhile, said the district’s determination that Taylor did not bring a weapon onto a bus in April was based on a lack of evidence.
As previously stated by the district, school officials searched the student’s locker and the lockers of 10 other students at Waterfront in an effort to find the reported gun, but were unsuccessful. Administrators also reviewed the school bus video tape but were unable to find any recorded evidence showing Taylor with a gun on the bus.
Finally, the district sought witness testimony for Taylor’s long-term suspension hearing, Keresztes said, but none of the student witnesses was willing to testify against Taylor on the record and face cross examination by Taylor and his family.
“The district found no grounds to proceed with a suspension beyond the five days imposed by the principal,” Keresztes said.
Although police said Taylor’s parents objected to Taylor’s suspension and said he did not have access to a handgun, Keresztes said those assertions had no bearing on the district’s final determination that the gun allegation was unfounded.
“A punitive decision must be based on facts,” he said. “It’s not a criminal standard ... but there does need to be something. There does need to be some reasonable evidence.”
He also said he found no fault with the Buffalo Police Department.
“Our partners in the department are completely reliable and have always delivered the highest quality services for our district,” he said. “While I can only express the facts known to the school district, I have complete trust and confidence in the decisions our police officers make and will not second-guess them.”