BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Pastor James Giles said children and teens have become collateral damage in the wake of increased gun violence in the City of Buffalo.
"Since March of 2020 to now, we have had more innocent collateral deaths, people hurt harmed and manged and killed... more this period than in the last six years put together. I have the records," Pastor Giles said.
One of those caught innocently in the path of violence was 17-year-old Najae Lanier. Her family said she was on her way home from the store on Page Avenue when she was shot and killed.
"You're shooting innocent people. People that have nothing to do with your beef, nothing to do with your altercation. You're not even mad at them. But because you're so reckless in the motion of taking a life, you're hell bent on taking a life, you don't care who you hit," Giles said.
The city's youngest homicide victim was three-year-old Shaquelle Walker Jr. He was shot while celebrating the Fourth of July. Two have been charged in connection to the shooting on Donovan Drive, where Shaquelle was shot.
"What could a three-year-old do to deserve that? No body deserves to be shot. That's because is plaguing certain areas, and they're just pulling the trigger. They don't discern where their target is," BPD Deputy Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.
Gramaglia said so far this year, 17 shooting victims were under 18-years-old. Throughout allo of 2020, there were 17 shooting victims under 18. In 2019, there were 13. There were 12 in 2018.
But in 2017, 24 shooting victims were under 18 and in 2016, 26.
"How do you explain to a mother her 16-year-old boy just got her life snuffed out? He has not lived long enough to do that kind of harm," Pastor Giles said.
Police said some of those pulling the trigger are children as well.
"You have young people who are carrying guns out of fear because they want to be able to defend themselves in the event someone is coming after them. You also have a smaller number out there as the trigger pullers that are doing the shooting," Gramaglia said.
Throughout 2021, Buffalo Police have made 19 gun possession arrests involving those under 18. By this time last year, they had made 14 arrests.
"They're younger. We're not talking about 16 and 17-year-olds. We're talking about 14, 15, and even as young as 13," Pastor Giles said.
Buffalo Police are making more gun arrests in general. This year, they've arrested 4467 individuals for firearms related charges. Last year, they arrested 329 people over the course of the year.
"Our detectives are taking guns off the street every day. They're working very diligently dealing with some bad people and getting guns off the street," Gramaglia said.
Gramaglia said the increase in gun arrests is due to good police work and more weapons on the street.
"It's both of that. It's absolutely top notch police work. Our officers know who the players are and within the confines of the law, they know how to make these stops and how to get these guns. But there are also more guns in circulation," Gramaglia said.
So now, Gramaglia said their focus includes finding a big picture solution.
"We certainly as a community have to work together to get resources and get them back in school, jobs, job training, whatever that is to have them find another answer than picking up a gun," Gramaglia said.