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Details and theories are aired as authorities announce an arrest in McKinley High School violence

Crimestoppers photo of McKinley HS shooting suspect
Crimestoppers
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This image features an individual Buffalo Police think may have a role in the shooting of a security guard during a fight at McKinley High School, during which a student was stabbed.

Police and prosecutors confirmed the arrest and arraignment late Thursday night of a 17-year-old, in connection with a violent fight outside McKinley High School Wednesday afternoon that left a 14-year-old student stabbed and a security guard shot.

The suspect, whose name has not been released, is charged as a minor with Second Degree Attempted Murder and First Degree Assault. The male suspect, also said to be a McKinley student, was held in a juvenile detention facility in advance of a bail hearing scheduled for Monday morning before Youth Court Judge Kelly Brinkworth.

The attacker is accused of being among a group that engaged in a fight outside the high school after classes ended for the day. He was arrested Thursday evening and arraigned shortly before midnight.

“We have video of the incident. We have statements. We have witnesses. Investigators did a very good job on getting to the point, while working with the district attorney's office, to get to the point where we could lay those charges,” said Buffalo Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia at a Friday morning briefing. “We were on to somebody pretty quickly. It just took a little time to build up enough evidence to make that arrest.”

At first, it was believed two people, a student and a security guard intervening to break up the fight, had been shot. It was determined when the juvenile victim was taken into surgery that he was not shot, but instead stabbed. The teen, according to Mayor Byron Brown, was in stable condition as of Friday morning.

The security guard, who was shot in the leg, was treated and released that day.

Police said Friday morning that further investigation led them to discover a second student, a 13-year-old, had been grazed in the arm by gunfire during the violence. The shooter was still at large as of Friday morning.

“First and foremost, we are still investigating whether or not there were others who were involved in the assault on the victim. In addition to that, we also believe that there was a separate individual who had a weapon and fired the shots that struck the security guard in the leg, and also now allegedly struck another student, grazing him in the arm,” said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.

Crimestoppers is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information which leads to an arrest or indictment.

Brown, during his remarks inside Buffalo Police Headquarters, offered some theories as to a rise in violence.

“One, I think the pandemic has an impact on some of the increase in violence that we're seeing not only here in this community, but we're seeing across the country. People are angry. People are frustrated. People are fearful. And in particular, I think our young people have been impacted,” Brown said. “Also, it is clear that there are just too many illegal weapons on the streets of communities all across this country, urban, suburban and rural.”

Flynn suggests additionally, the state’s criminal justice reforms have backfired. He specifically points to the state’s “Raise the Age” reform, which raised the legal age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old. The reform, enacted in April 2017, was designed to ensure young non-violent offenders receive evidence-based intervention and treatment.

While acknowledging the roles poverty and dysfunctional family environments may play in influencing a young offender’s behavior, Flynn said Friday what has happened since the introduction of those reforms is a loss of accountability.

“In the past two to three years, we have seen not only a significant increase in the number of minors getting charged with crimes, we have also seen a significant increase in the number of minors who are victims of crimes,” Flynn said. “What we need to start doing is start focusing our attention on the victims of crimes and not necessarily the defendants. And we need to start holding the defendants accountable for their actions.”

The DA went on to state that he cares for a youthful offender that, for example, might be caught with a bag or marijuana or who breaks into a car to sleep in it because the teen is homeless. In those cases, he insists, he wants to help them.

In matters involving violent crimes, however, he says there’s a need to implement “tough love.”

“We need to have some accountability here. We need to have, using a school term and education term, we need to have some more discipline,” Flynn said. “And if my dear friends in Albany aren't going to dish out more discipline, well, that's why you have me as district attorney. I guess I'll do it.”

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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