Three Charged with Hate Crimes after Violence Erupts in Lovejoy

April 13, 2012 Updated Apr 13, 2012 at 6:46 PM EDT

By Allen Leight

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April 13, 2012 Updated Apr 13, 2012 at 6:46 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - Escalating violence in the city's Lovejoy district has city leaders stepping in, after three teens are arrested and charged with hate crimes.

17-year-old Wilfredo Vasquez, 19-year-old Jamie Zawadzki and 18-year-old Alex Boivin were arrested late Tuesday night and charged with Aggravated Harassment as a Hate Crime and Criminal Mischief.

According to police documents obtained by Eyewitness News, the three allegedly smashed out a window of a Benzinger Street home while yelling racial slurs.

According to police and Common Council President Richard Fontana, it was just the latest in what has been an escalating back-and-forth battle in the Lovejoy neighborhood.

"The mother tells me that people were calling her names, then they threatened to hurt her and the family...so then she called in reinforcements and those reinforcements start beating up kids they see on the strip that might not have been the ones that made the accusations," explained Fontana.

"So now you have innocent kids getting beat up, then the windows are broken later on cause of the innocent kids being beat-up. So that's how these things occur on the streets of the City of Buffalo."

Buffalo Police say they believe the attack on the Benzinger Street home was in retaliation for an incident earlier that day at Benzinger and Lovejoy, where a group from that home approached and attacked a group of teens hanging out on the corner.

The incident was reportedly caught on Police camera.

"They attacked a couple of Lovejoy youth, sent them to the hospital with gashes in their head," said Fontana.

And that attack is believed to be a result of verbal attacks and threats on the family living in the targeted house.

The back-and-forth escalation of violence is something that city leaders and Fontana says has to end now before it gets worse.

Fontana says he spoke with the family, asking them not to bring in 'reinforcements' and rather to call police when and if harassed. The council president also gave them his personal number, and told them to take pictures of anyone causing problems.

"...and I talked to the kids and I schooled them on not attacking this family or other families in the neighborhood that might not look like they do," says Fontana.

"It wasn't the no side had fault here, both sides were at fault, and that's why we've tried to diffuse the situation," he continued.

Councilman Fontana says the family plans on moving out of the district, in-part because of the escalating violence and harassment.

Buffalo Police also say they are continuing to investigate the case and say more arrests may come as a result of the incident at Benzinger and Lovejoy earlier Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has called the family and Council President Fontana, assuring them that there will be extra police patrols in the neighborhood for now.