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AUGUST 05 - AUGUST 13, 2014

Was Spate of Shootings Tied to Houston Trial?

By Frank Parlato

August 05, 2014

Cordarise Houston

If ever you wanted to make an argument for more subsidized housing in Niagara Falls, don't, I beg you, look at the recent spate of shootings that have been a near daily occurrence in Niagara Falls.

The shootings seem to hover around that great breeding ground of crime - the subsidized housing project model-  the herding and segregating of people together who cannot afford to pay their rent without other people, working people, being taxed to help them. Isolating them outside of neighborhoods where they can mix with the healthy and strong.

There was nine straight days of shooting and most, if not all, had some connection to the projects.

On the dog days of shootings, two, young, black men were shot. At the projects.

Many shots were fired, many more than reported. 

Most of the bullets missed.

Aftermath of a shooting scene at the projects.

But Robert 'Dez' Hilson, 21, was shot on Hope Blvd in the projects, after, so he said, he was chased by men wearing masks.

Hilson claims he doesn't know who his assailants are, or what their faces looked like.

Some are skeptical of that. Hilson was just released from ECMC.

He will live and so if he knows who went after him, he won't say.

Two weeks ago, there was another shooting, at Center Count, in the projects, near the pool. Markiez Jones, 19, was shot. Nobody knew nothing.

"There were a lot of people around that day. Somebody had to know something. I think witnesses and others who may know may be intimidated," said Niagara Falls Police Detective Michael Trane.

As for information, it is scarce. 

Trane said, "People are saying 'this is what I hear' rather than 'this is what I know.'” 

One theory is that the spate of gunfire is in direct retaliation of a earlier shooting, connected to the trial of Cordarise M. Houston.

Houston was sentenced last week to 32 years in prison for shooting his "friend," John Petty, 25, a man he’d known since sixth grade.

Some say Houston was trying to silence Petty, a marijuana dealer working off of 19th Street, because Petty could have tied Houston to the May 19, 2013 murder of Joseph Medley Sr., 37, who was found lying on the ground in front of his Ashland Avenue home in Niagara Falls.

For one week after Medley's murder, Houston and Petty conversed for hours on their cell phones.

At the end of the week, Houston came to Petty's Cudaback Avenue apartment and, before he left, shot him seven times. One bullet struck Petty through his spinal canal, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.  Houston shot Petty six more times after Petty was down. 

Houston, who was charged in 2006 and 2007 with violent felonies, including shootings, pleaded guilty in 2007 to second-degree burglary and was sentenced to seven years in state prison. He got out in January 2013, just in time to start shooting again. 

Within four months Houston shot Petty and killed Medley, maybe.

For a time, some thought that it did not seem that justice would be done at the trial.

But once Houston was sentenced to 32 years, the streets felt some relief that justice was done. The shooting stopped for a few days.

Is there a connection?

"Whether or not that is true we won’t know until we have some arrests," Trane said. "Until we have some arrests we can't say one way or another."

One thing that is striking, is that in the many days of gunfire, there were a lot of misses. 

"Yes we get calls for shots fired," Trane said. "Were all of them intended to shoot the other person? I don’t know. It could be a form of intimidation. We are actively working all these cases. None of these shootings are happening when police are present. Without help from the community it's tough. I feel like a lot of people are really holding back."

In recent weeks, Niagara Falls Police hit the streets with saturation patrols. But as soon as the expensive, multi police force presence goes away, the crime returns.  The city did a multi police agency deal last weekend complete with a Border Patrol helicopter flying over the city.

"After the helicopter and the extra police are gone, it creeps back into the neighborhood again," said Police Supt. Bryan DalPorto

Reading police reports over the years, it's easy to say it's the same families. That some 20 extended families  are committing 80 percent of crime. 

I'll tell you the names I've seen time and again: Dolson, Hilson, Minter, Ubiles, Houston, Carter, Hamilton, Smith, Pryor, Rogers, Mayfield. I know officers who arrested a young man and, in the past, arrested his father.

Some of the older guys arrested his grandfather too.

"If drugs or the sale of drugs aren’t the main cause of the crime and the shootings, they're certainly the underlying cause," DalPorto said. "It’s guns, drugs, some kind of criminal empire. The shootings are not about a disagreement in parking. Or who is going to pick up the check at Applebee's. It's over illegal activity. Drugs; some kind of crime gone bad. 

"We are not getting any cooperation from the neighbors and not much from the victims," DalPorto said. "No descriptions of vehicles, while shootings took place in broad daylight. We have to break the code of not cooperating. 

"The code of the street is that if you shoot at somebody, as long as it isn't a kill shot, but just a wound, then the victim is not supposed to cooperate with the police." 

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster has attempted to break the code, to reach out to victims and witnesses through press conferences and his own July 26 Facebook posting.

His language may sound hopelessly, absurdly out of touch with the minds of those he seeks to reach, but he made his pitch. You can judge for yourself.

The Mayor wrote, "For over a week now, our city has seen retaliatory waves of gunfire exchanged back and forth on the city's streets between competing groups of young people--nine incidents in nine days. No one has been killed--YET--but people have been injured and there have been close calls where bullets struck homes with multiple occupants. If this pattern of violence is allowed to continue, it is only a matter of time before someone--perhaps one of the young men participating in the shootings, but equally likely an innocent bystander--gets killed.

"We know that in several cases, there have been witnesses who have information that could help us apprehend the shooters. Those witnesses have remained silent. In fact, in the case of one attempted shooting that occurred in broad daylight on a busy city street, there was not a single 911 call made to even report the incident."

"If you have information that could help us get the guns and the people using them in these latest incidents off the streets, you have a moral responsibility to come forward. I know this may mean 'snitching' on a friend or relative, but if you really care about this person, aren't they better off in jail for a short time than lying dead on the street? How will you feel if you keep quiet, and the next chance you get to visit your loved-one isn't in jail but at the funeral home? Give us a chance to seize the weapons and get the people a chance to turn their lives around before it is too late."

Of late, the air has been filled with gun smoke. Someday these bullets, perhaps not intended to hit anyone, will stray and actually strike someone, maybe an innocent bystander, and the trouble will be far worse for everyone than it is now.







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