Shooting at 327 Second Street

About two weeks ago I wrote about the killing of Henry Ferrell, a 32-year-old man on Western Avenue in Albany. At the time, the police had kept a cruiser out for days in front of the residence while people were investigating. Last week they picked up their first suspect, a man, also 32, from Brooklyn. On Friday the police grabbed his alleged accomplice, a boy who turned 16 just last week. Police say that it appears that the suspects Dwayne Wright, the elder and his teenage companion, Kymeir Turner, an Albany resident, killed Ferrell in a botched robbery. I’d jogged past that apartment quite a few times and wondered out of curiosity how long it would take to find the killer(s). We’ll see how the case goes.

Interestingly, Turner is from Second Street, a one-way road heading westward in the rough Arbor Hill section of the city. Just blocks away from his residence there was a murder early Sunday morning at 327 Second Street. Zechariah Banks, a 27-year-old from across the Hudson River in Troy was apparently shot also during a botched robbery at a birthday party.

I was sitting in a Valvoline having my transmission fluid changed when I heard about it on the local cable news station. I wrote down the number of the place and headed there with my camera. I’m always a bit reluctant to take pictures in Arbor Hill. I suppose that’s a part of my own racial insecurity. Feels weird poking around a nearly all-black neighborhood with your camera, particularly after a shooting. Still, I was able to get some alright shots. An Albany area Web site used one for their morning news update section.

I found the crime scene. It had already been cordoned off by the police for several hours. A news cameraman was there to take some B-roll footage of the block. There was nothing much to shoot there, really. The cops were obviously behind the tape and downstairs in the basement looking for evidence on the shooting.

Albany is not a large city (not even 100,000 people) and so it’s easy to recognize people from the news. Officer William Bonanni was watching over the scene from the outside, monitoring onlookers. Bonanni is a bit notorious in this small city for his own legal problems. Still, he was quite accomodating and friendly enough to approach with a few general questions about what had happened.

Bonanni had a good point about this shooting, which is that it was something that was very hard to prevent the way other crimes are.

There’s not much you can do to prevent people who have it in their mind to shoot others in a robbery from doing it. Preventing drug and gun sales, maybe.

Anyway, I grew up in the suburbs around Albany in a nice, mostly quiet town where there have only been a few murders in the last few years. I’ve lived in Boston and Brooklyn where by virtue of their being larger cities, there are more shootings and the like. Still, I’ve never really been exposed to crime scenes, which is to say nothing of killings. So you’ll have to excuse me for being a little wet behind the ears yesterday as I marveled that on this narrow block, within yards of a taped off area, life was going on quite normally.

Yesterday was one of the last days of summer, really. Labor Day is next Monday and a few days later the kids will be back in school. On Second Street yesterday, right across from the shooting scene, kids were enjoying a mild, sunny day. A gentleman whose SUV was parked at 325 Second Street, was washing it down. Life seemed to be going on pretty normally.

Still, it’s strange to think that across the river in Troy several peoples’ days were absolutely destroyed with the loss of someone they cared about. It must be awful to find out on a Sunday that your son or brother or good friend was popped in the chest over some money while he was enjoying himself at a birthday party. For the people who live at 327 it must be awful to think someone just ran into their residence with a gun with at least the thought of using it on someone in the back of their mind.

Woman missing for 18 years located

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about crime (not quite sure why, but I usually develop an interest in something for a few weeks before it fizzles out). Each day for the past week I’ve been watching episodes of Cold Case Files on youtube and this morning awoke to a disturbing dream that my apartment was the scene of a grotesque murder. Kinda creepy.

Anyway, before the world of crime could seem any stranger, I just read several minutes ago about the likely return of Jaycee Lee Dugard, a California girl missing from the Lake Tahoe area since 1991. I’d never heard about Dugard before, but because we’re around the same age, this is very intriguing. I hope it’s for sure the same person who was abducted and that she can be reunited with her family. What a nightmare to think that someone could be captive, physically and psychologically for most of their life. Strange world we live in.

The release of Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi

It’s an image to that me is as indelible as any published in the media during my lifetime. The cockpit of a jumbo jet liner laying on its side on a Scottish field like a  discarded, crushed soda can. The words Maid of the Seas,  still legible below the cockpit windows, and despite a six-mile plunge, the right side wiper was still intact. Absent from the photograph is any evidence of the rest of the aircraft, which was in pieces scattered in and around the village.

It turns out wreckage from the downed airliner wasn’t the only thing scattered about the area. The bodies of the passengers stayed around town for days as investigators scrambled to get vital information to piece together as best as they could how PanAm Flight 103, from London to New York City had suddenly exploded and come apart.

I’ve been thinking about this photograph a bit lately, as the Scottish courts just days ago released the only person ever convicted in the Flight 103 bombing, Lybian citizen Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi, who was serving a life sentence for his part in coordinating the placement of explosives in the jet, which went down just days before Christmas in 1988.

The cockpit photo is something I’ll always remember. I believe in fourth grade I was given a World Almanac by my father for 1990, and one of the photographs in the center section was this one. Because the incident had happened so close to the New Year, it was was considered a significant event for 1989, as it was at the time considered one of the most brazen and deadly terrorist attacks carried out.

It would take more than a decade before anyone would be convicted and then only one person. More than 270 people on board and nearly a dozen on the ground were killed.

The horror that the families must have felt at learning of their loved one’s deaths during the holidays must have been horrific, second only to the terrifying deathes that the victims endured, many of whom are believed to have survived the rapid depressurized decent until impact. That to me seems absolutely horrible.

This week, Al-Megrahi was released because he has terminal prostate cancer, which may only allow him to live for three more months. Under Scottish law, a person with a terminal illness may be released.

The families of the victims are predictably and understandably upset that Al Megrahi  has been let go, and deported back to Lybia, where he received a hero’s welcome.

I guess I’m torn about it. Although I don’t think criminal courts should be required to let anyone go who has been convicted and sentence to a crime – regardless of their health – I think it is a mark of the underlying decency of the West that one of our courts would consider such a move, offering some bit of mercy to someone with a terminal illness. Personally, I don’t know if I would have done it if I were a judge, but I somehow don’t think the Scottish judge who made the release decision did so without thinking about it.

It’s a marked difference in some senses between the West and the Arab world, that our legal system would consider giving this man his last three months out of a cell. Somehow I don’t think that under nationalist dictatorship of Mohammed Gaddafi, there would be as much mercy given.

Still, that will be of little comfort to the families who have little to claim from this tragedy but justice.

Murder where I jog past

On Sunday I drove home a teammate from a softball game.  Across the spot where I let her out we noticed Albany Police had cordoned off an apartment on Western Avenue. I haven’t seen it much in life, but I know when you see the yellow tape, it’s usually a crime scene. For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me that someone could have been killed there. Sure enough, my teammate told me there was a killing there. Henry C. Ferrell, a 32-year-old single father living at 158 Western Avenue, was shot after some sort of early morning argument on Sunday. So far his family is unsure of why he may have been killed.

I guess that makes about 4 homicides in Albany so far this year. The only other one that I can remember was one that occurred not far from the Ferrell killing  on West Street.

I don’t think of Albany as a particularly murderous place, but looking back over the past year, and remembering the shooting of 10-year-old Kathina Thomas last year in the West Hill neighborhood, not far from where I live.

Thomas’ death, which came at the hands of a teenager who was firing at some rivals on the street with a “community gun”, was absolutely awful. Still, this is not a particularly murderous city. Earlier this year however, a gun was found in the basement of my apartment, so I suppose you never know where something that could occur or who is involved with us things.

I jog past the site where Farrell was killed at least four times a week, although mostly during daylight. On the other hand, I’ve walked around at late night near a spot on Lake Street where an unsuspecting University at Albany student was popped last year for no apparent reason. His killers have not been identified yet and so far it seems pretty random.

I don’t normally live in fear, but I suppose even in safer neighborhoods people can be killed. My own brother was held up at gunpoint in March in his neighborhood in the West Roxbury section of Boston, known for being pretty safe. I guess you can never account for other folks unfortunately.

George Sodini’s tormented blog lives online

For the last week I’ve been reading with interest – perhaps morbid – about George Sodini, the 48-year-old mass murderer in Pittsburgh, who killed three women at an LA Fitness. I’ve written a little bit about him for this blog but have yet to really delve into what this incredibly lonely and angry man let the world know about himself through his own blog. Right now, I’m sure there are thousands of people reading Sodini’s vitriolic, self-absorbed online journal. I guess I’m one of them.

Predictably, Sodini’s own webpage has been taken down from the Net, but not before others could duplicate what he had written. I wonder how much access the public would have to Sodini’s mind were this crime had occurred in the 1980’s, well-before people shared their thoughts online. If he had done so in a notebook, it’s likely the public would have to go through the courts to get access to it and only after the Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania state police departments had it in their possession for a while, perhaps leaking excerpts to the press.

As disturbing as the shooting was and frightening that loneliness and alienation could contribute to someone doing such an awful thing, I am curious to read what he has written and glad that it has been preserved online. Still, probably won’t be much of a pleasant read.

More sketchiness with the neighbors on the corner

I’ve written about them – and judging by the stats few have read – but the family on the corner has reached a new level of bizarre. When I went out this morning to take my dog for a walk I noticed some marker-scrawled graffiti on the side of their house.

On the north side of the house there is what appears to be the word ‘sneek’ written across the wooden, white painted siding. I’ve heard of folks vandalizing other peoples’ property, but their own? Of course, I should consider that it wasn’t them but someone else who did it. The only reason why I’d think that’s not the case is because there is quite literally someone out there at all times on the wooden stoop.

I didn’t want to snoop around at 6:30 a.m. with my camera any more than I had. It was a little strange to see. As I don’t own property on my block – or anywhere for that matter – I am not too concerned. Just thought it was a little strange. I’ll see if more shows up on their’s or any other houses on the block.

What does daytime commercials say about us

I’ve had the last three days off from work and have spent an inordinate amount of it in front of our elderly, wooden-cased television set.

I have to say, daytime TV is really one of the most depressing things. Lots of commercials for the down and out; Cash For Gold, class action lawsuit attorney services, and advertisements for diabetes testing equipment.

The hours of 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. are obviously prime for the type of services geared at people down on their luck. These commercials, depressing as they are, do make me a bit thankful to have a job and not reliant on selling my roommate’s gold jewelry, searching for for someone who has been injured in a motorsports accident and developing blood sugar problems. Guess I should be happy I have my job and my health.