Shamel O. Parker and Tyneisha J. Pettiford died early Friday morning in a shower of bullets at the intersection of a neighborhood of newly built houses on Buffalo’s East Side.
Their relationship had been plagued with violence. Parker’s own family said he was a drug dealer. Pettiford had an order of protection against him.
Their deaths continue the theme of drugs and violence that has left many dead in recent months.
“We don’t believe this was a random act,” Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said. “We’re working on a motive and we’re asking for the public’s help. Anyone who saw or heard something should contact our Homicide Bureau or confidential tipline at 847-2255.”
So far this year, 25 people have been killed in the city – three more than last year at this time – and many others have suffered gunshot wounds. Almost all of the bloodshed, police say, can be attributed to narcotics and gangs, who have recently resurfaced following numerous crackdowns by city, state and federal law enforcement in the past few years.
Friday morning, tearful relatives of the victims came to the intersection where the 29-year-old Pettiford’s gray Infiniti went out of control and crashed into a sport utility vehicle parked in a nearby driveway. The couple had been shot by a gunman in another car while they were stopped at a traffic light.
“Somebody killed my uncle,” Kendra Williams wailed, holding her stomach and sobbing. “I just want to see him one more time. He’s dead.”
And as the 24-year-old niece stared at the blood-stained pavement, she said her 37-year-old uncle’s brushes with the law involved “drugs and stuff. You know, he had to make a living.”
Was the shooting gang-related? Police say that is a possibility.
Parker’s loved ones grappled with a reason for the shooting, explaining that he was in his girlfriend’s car and no one knew what she drove because she lived in the suburbs.
“So why would somebody just shoot them at a light? It just doesn’t sound right,” Williams said.
Frances Ross, Kendra’s mother and Parker’s older sister, wrapped an arm around her daughter and reminded her of the importance of faith.
“You have to remember, have faith in God. OK?” Ross said.
Even at such a bleak moment, Ross found it in herself to smile as she remembered her brother’s comical antics.
“If everyone in the house was asleep, he’d come jump on the beds and bang on the doors or crazy stuff. He bought all the kids stuff. He was giving,” Ross said.
Initial reports by relatives that Pettiford was pregnant, police said, were inaccurate.
And though Parker was remembered as a loving brother, uncle and son, there was another side to him, according to Pettiford’s Town of Tonawanda neighbors and town police records.
Parker had most recently been sent to jail for violating an order of protection issued against him for a domestic incident at Pettiford’s apartment last May. He was charged with criminal contempt and unlawful imprisonment.
Neighbors at Embassy Apartments, a residential complex off Colvin Boulevard adjacent to the Youngmann Memorial Highway, said Parker had kicked down the door to Pettiford’s home more than once and attacked her.
“He shattered her door and he started hitting her and I heard her say, ‘I’m calling the police.’ But I’d already called the police,” one of her neighbors said.
Town police records listed four visits by officers to the apartment, which Pettiford, a home health care aide, had moved into last August.
Fred Bruch recalled leaving his apartment early one morning and finding Pettiford’s boyfriend sleeping on the landing outside her door.
“I gave him a shake and he opened his eyes and I said, ‘Are you all right?’ He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I went on my way,” Bruch said.
Others recalled how Pettiford loved her dog, a pug named “Fred,” whom she could be seen with outside before she left for work in the morning.
Arrangements for the care of the dog, who was still locked up in a kennel alone in her apartment Friday afternoon, were being made, apartment officials said. They added that Pettiford had recently given notice she was moving at the end of the month.
Though disturbed by the news of the slaying, the neighbor who complained repeatedly to police about violence at the Pettiford residence said he was not shocked that the couple had met a violent end.
“A town detective warned me to be careful. When they had served the boyfriend with an arrest warrant, they tracked him down to a house in the city that had bullet holes in it,” the neighbor said.
City police records indicate that Parker was arrested May 29 at a Lovejoy residence for violating the order of protection issued by Town of Tonawanda Justice J. Mark Gruber.
Parker was accused of driving Pettiford to a relative’s home against her will.