The video is haunting. Nine teenage boys chase, and eventually catch up with, senior citizen James C. LeGrand. Once they take LeGrand down, the group repeatedly kicks and punches him.
LeGrand, now 67, is a member of the Mayor’s Impact Team who was working at Shoshone Park in North Buffalo that day in May 2013. He was cleaning out his car when he saw there was a fight between two girls. More than 100 Bennett High School students had gathered to watch the prearranged brawl.
He tried to break it up, but to no avail. So LeGrand pulled out his digital camera and started taking photos – telling the teenagers he was going to show them to their principal at Bennett High School. And a melee ensued.
The teens broke his jaw, left him cut, bruised and nearly unconscious, and took his camera and cellphone.
It has been more than a year since video of the beating from a cellphone camera surfaced. Since then, the nine teens pleaded guilty, and four were sentenced to jail.
LeGrand was honored Thursday with the Mayor’s Civilian Award of Merit at the Police Department awards ceremony.
“I don’t feel like I really deserve this,” LeGrand said. “I think I did what anyone else should have done.”
LeGrand said he didn’t think that it was particularly courageous for him to try to break up the fight amid a huge crowd. But others disagree.
The award is given to a civilian who goes above and beyond what is expected to help others and serve his or her community.
Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said that the selection team considered several other people and that LeGrand stood out as most deserving. “He put his safety on the line and interrupted an assault,” Derenda said.
Mayor Byron W. Brown said at the time of the incident that LeGrand did not want to press charges “because he is someone who cares about young people.” Brown said Thursday that LeGrand returned to work with the Mayor’s Impact Team at Shoshone Park immediately and that he is still working there today.
“He tried to safeguard the well-being of young people in the City of Buffalo and, after having some of those young people turn on him, went right back to work,” Brown said.
“It shows the kind of character that he has. … He didn’t want any fanfare. He’s a very humble, hardworking man and just a great example of the kind of people we have in our city and … a great example for our young people.”
The nine teens who pleaded guilty in October to the second-degree assault were: Homer Barney, 17; Edward Magby IV, 18; Quashaun Moore, 17; Damari Phillips, 17; Darvin Whitely, 17; and Jaquan Woodard, 19; and three juveniles.
Woodard , Barney, Phillips and Moore were sentenced to weekends in jail. Woodard got the steepest penalty – four months of weekends followed by five years of probation.