A late-night argument over where to park at an informal, heavily attended weekend block party in Lackawanna may have provoked the shooting that killed a 30-year-old man and critically wounded his 44-year-old cousin, neighbors and relatives said Monday as police continued their search for two gunmen.
Lackawanna Chief of Detectives Joseph Leo said a number of possible motives are being investigated in the double shooting at the Baker Homes public housing development.
Authorities do know that an argument escalated into a fist fight and ended in gunfire that killed Richard R. Abrams, a Lackawanna High School graduate and basketball star, and left his cousin, Damon Turner, in critical but stable condition in Erie County Medical Center.
“The victims were out on Turner’s back apartment porch when three vehicles pulled up into the alleyway. There were six people in the vehicles and an altercation started, and then two of the individuals from the vehicles started shooting handguns,” Leo said. “We have heard different scenarios of what the motive was and we are following up on those different motives.”
The shooting occurred at 12:03 a.m. Sunday and it is believed that Abrams and Turner were each shot twice, police said.
Standing at a makeshift memorial on the first block of Olcott Street, where Abrams collapsed after running from his cousin’s back porch a couple of hundred feet away, Carvis McCutcheon said the violence was senseless.
“Damon and Richard were sitting out on the porch when these cars pulled up. Damon told them ‘You’ll have to move your car. You’ll get a ticket if you park there.’ All he was doing was trying to help someone and they took it the wrong way,” said McCutcheon, who was at the party.
Tim Foley, Abrams’ high school basketball coach, remembered him as his first star player.
“This is really a sad time. In my first year of coaching, which was Richard’s freshman year, he was a great athlete. By his senior year, he was one of 20 top basketball players in the area,” Foley said. “He was also a great football player.”
But Foley added that Abrams was also known for his respectfulness and ability to get along with others.
The message friends and loved ones wanted the public to know late Monday was that both cousins were law-abiding, respected members of the tight-knit Baker Homes community and that those responsible for the bloodshed live outside their neighborhood in the city’s First Ward.
Neighbor Keith Woods said Abrams was the type of young man any family would want to claim as its son.
“If there was anybody in the neighborhood that you’d want to be your son, it was him, and I think everyone in the neighborhood felt the same,” Woods said.
After visiting with Abrams’ relatives Monday afternoon, Kim Clark stepped out of the modest apartment and said she was on her way up to see Turner at ECMC. “I used to date Damon and he was never in a fight in his life.”
Neighbors, she said, were grateful that the bloodshed was limited, adding that more people could have easily been harmed when the bullets started flying.
It was estimated that more than 300 people were at the block party that began at 11 p.m. and had been publicized on social media sites, accounting for the large turnout, police said.
Lackawanna Police Chief James L. Michel Jr. expressed confidence that his detectives will solve the case and urged anyone with information on the shooters to call detectives at 827-6410 or 827-6411.
Leo thanked the police agencies that assisted city officers in responding to the block party. More than 100 officers from Buffalo, Hamburg, West Seneca, Orchard Park, Erie County deputies, state troopers and members of other police departments assisted in crowd control as the scene became chaotic, Leo said.
Residents on Monday continued to insist that reports of a riot in the aftermath of the bloodshed were untrue and that other block parties have been held on the same section of the street without incident. They also expressed concern that first responders failed to perform first aid on Abrams.
Authorities, however, insisted that first aid was performed in an attempt to revive Abrams.
Abrams, the father of an infant son, is also survived by his mother, Maureen Roberts, and two brothers. Funeral arrangements are being finalized.