In Loving Memory of James "Jezzy" Mitchell

Gun violence continues as Buffalo logs 16 shooting incidents in March By Aaron Besecker (The Buffalo News)

Every shooting in which the victim was either injured or killed happened east of Jefferson Avenue, meaning the residents of the East Side unfortunately know best the reality of gun violence in Buffalo.

Virtually all shootings in the city are gang-related with the victims being targeted by the shooters, said Capt. Joseph A. Gramaglia, who heads up the Buffalo Police Department’s Homicide Squad, And in most cases the victims won’t help police with their investigation.

“Most, if not all, cases are targeted victims,” Gramaglia said. “They’re in the gang life and they refuse to cooperate with us.”

That might make the detectives’ work harder, but that doesn’t mean the cases are put aside, Gramaglia said.

“We exhaust all avenues even with uncooperative victims,” he said. “We still work the case.”

On March 12, there were three shootings. Shaunice Gamblin, 15, was killed in a drive-by shooting on LaSalle Avenue and Ashley Kern, 17, was injured in a shooting on Glendale Place, near Canisius College. Families of both said they were unintended victims.

Three other people were injured in those three shootings. At least two of the three incidents were possibly connected to each other, police have said. Also killed in March was Kelvin Alexander, 24, who was shot March 20 on Genesee Street.

Saprina Wilkins lost her son, James C. Mitchell, on March 5 when he was fatally shot on Weston Avenue.

Nicknamed “Jezzy,” the 22-year-old was attending Bryant & Stratton College. Wilkins described Jezzy as a very fun, loving and caring young man. It was around 10:40 p.m. as her son was walking to the corner store when “some guys pulled up and just started shooting.” Police believe James may have been mistaken for someone else, she said.

Wilkins said she plans to go to the store at Weston and Edison avenues, which her son went into after he was shot.

“The last thing he said was, ‘Tell my family I love them,’ and he died,” Wilkins said.

People often assume shooting victims are involved with gangs, but James wasn’t, as far as she knew. In addition to losing her son, Wilkins said she’s been troubled by the reluctance of people to come forward who may have information about what happened.

James C. Mitchell, 22, was fatally shot March 5 on Weston Avenue.

James C. Mitchell, 22, was fatally shot March 5 on Weston Avenue.

“It’s horrible, all the things that go on on the East Side. And it continues,” she said, because people are “led by fear.”

She said she believes violence would be cut down if people were more willing to speak out about what they’ve seen or heard.

“People talk about street justice and all this other mess and it’s nothing but a cycle of death and murder and just shootings and it’s really ridiculous,” she said.

On top of the 16 shooting incidents last month, there was a shooting March 21 at Kerns and Newburgh avenues, east of Bailey Avenue. Though a final decision hasn’t come from the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, the case appears to be a justified shooting, according to police.

In addition to the human toll, there were at least 14 other incidents of shootings that involved property damage but no injuries, according to statistics compiled by The News.

On March 23, police found two bullet holes in a vehicle on the 200 block of Wyoming Avenue, near East Delavan Avenue. In front of the same home Jan. 25, almost exactly two months earlier, a woman told police she found a bullet hole in the windshield of her SUV, according to police reports.

There were also at least 33 incidents were guns were displayed during a crime or a gun was found by police during a police call.

When including the shootings with only property damage and the gun arrests, more of the city falls under the shadow of gun violence. There were at least three shootings with property damage on the West Side last month. There were also at least two gun arrests in South Buffalo.

Of the 14 shootings last month where victims survived, four of those cases have been cleared with arrests, Gramaglia said. Investigations into three of the shootings have been closed, which happens when victims are completely uncooperative and there are no other available avenues police can pursue.

In March 2015, there were seven shootings. One of those cases was “exceptionally cleared,” meaning police know who the suspect is, the suspect can be identified by the victim but there are other circumstances why the case can’t be prosecuted, Gramaglia said.

The weather last March was also much colder than it was this year. Colder temperatures typically coincide with less crime, as overall crime – including shootings – usually peaks in the warm summer months.

Last March there were two homicides, both of which were cleared by an arrest, police said.

So far this year, there have been nine homicides in Buffalo. Seven of them involved a gun.

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