Albany murder suspects rapped about the thug life

“Got these bitches sucking on me ’til their motherfucking jaws sore.”

And so goes one of the more forceful lyrics in a four-minute rap track recorded by King James Modest and Ricardo Caldwell 17 and 18 respectively and both under arrest for the murder of Richard Bailey, a 20-year-old senior at the University at Albany last October.

Aspiring rappers, Modest and Caldwell are now in the confines of the Albany County Correctional Facility. The alleged triggerman, De Von Callicutt was received at the Coxsackie state prison facility in March on an unrelated charge.

Albany is not a particularly violent city, nor does it have the reputation for crime the way that other Upstate cities such as Buffalo and Rochester have. Still, a three-week period here included several murders – all involving guns –  an accidental shooting death and a random non-lethal attack on a bicyclist during broad daylight. Most of these incidents have occurred in the rougher sections of Albany, though Bailey’s murder took place in the heart of a neighborhood inhabited by college students.

Nearly a year since the night the Long Island native was shot in the head while returning from watching Monday Night Football at a friend’s apartment, many people in the city wondered if there would be any breaks in the crime.

My inclination was that someone would get arrested for doing something stupid. Looking for a deal, he or she may offer up information about the individuals involved in Bailey’s killing. That’s normally how these things happen, I think. So far, the police aren’t saying too much about how they got the three suspects, except that before he was sent to prison Callicutt had revealed his role in the shooting, ostensibly to someone who said something to the cops.

I suppose that it’s rough to say that any one person is destined for a life of crime, but listening to the lyrics in Modest and Caldwell’s low-quality recording, “Uptowns Bubblegum”, it’s clear that these two at least emulated the gangsta culture that has landed and many young men, and perhaps themselves if they are convicted, in prison.

Certainly, they’ll have an opportunity to argue their innocence and if they choose a jury or bench trial. It’s unlikely that Uptowns Bubblegum will make it into any trial, but it seems relevant in this respect: whether they are guilty or innocent Modest and Caldwell have a pretty dim view on the world around them; one the requires the use of force and violence to achieve riches and notoriety. It’s a huge part of the hip-hop culture, packaged and sold to disaffected young men in broken down cities throughout our country.

Out in the world right now, there are probably a half-million young men who want to be rappers, who have recorded their own demos or made cheap slide show youtube videos. Many of their songs are peppered with references to shooting snitches, driving fast cars, wearing expensive threads and sexual exploits with women. The life of a thug is a thing to be admired and exalted. With it, the idea of extinguishing someone’s life over some material item or amount of cash is par for the course. Many rap song attest to this. It really is very sad.

If the Albany police got these three guys I sure as hell hope they’re the right ones. Nobody wants to think of the wrong people getting in trouble while a killer or killers go free. I guess it will be interesting to see how this whole affair plays out. If Modest, who once impressed Albany mayoral candidate Corey Ellis as a kid escaping the troubled streets of Arbor Hill, is convicted for his alleged role, it will be decades before he steps out of custody – at least 25 years. The world will have changed a lot by then. I wonder if he and Caldwell, who comes from nearby Schenectady, will ever look back on the track they recorded and see it for what reasonable folks see it for, which is poor attempt distinguish themselves the easy way.


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.

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.

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.

Something irritating that I kinda enjoyed

Yesterday was one of the few really spotless days we’ve had here in Albany since the summer season began. It was a great time to get out for a run, garden, cookout and clean you car out, which is what my downstairs neighbor and his girlfriend died with their Lexus. I know how boring it can be to clean a car without some tunes, so I can releate with my neighbor for playing some music while he cleaned – quite impressively – the car from inside and out (I could take some tips from him). To keep himself occupied and productive my neighbor played some rap. He was generous with it though. We all got to hear it. We not only got to hear it but feel it for two hours, in fact. My internal organs vibrated with all the “niggahs” and  “‘muthafuckas” from the songs that were kicking out of that system.

At one point however, he had some competetion from  the as an annoying a presence in this neighborhood, the ice cream man, who also idles his vehicle for hours on end at times to lure out the kids with the money from their kids.

I was cleaning my own apartment at the time and figured I’d grab my camera and point it at the bizarre juxtaposition outdoors.

My apartment is somewhat tenament like

Back in December I took a day trip with my mother down to the Lower East Side to visit the Tenement Museum. It was an interesting trip. Although I thought that the tour of one of New York City’s last standing tenement buildings- the last families vacated in the 1930’s – was a little too short, it was very much interesting to think that hundreds of families occupied the building over the span of decades in the growing city of immigrants.

The tour was rushed and so my memories of the cramped quarters aren’t too clear, but the one thing that will always stick in my mind was the condition of the walls and ceilings – which have been preserved so that the public can know the hard conditions in which these families lived. The apartments, which housed many families at a time, were covered with dozens of layers of wall paper over the years. Unfortunately, they were glued to the walls with flour paste, which attracted rats and pests and increased the overall health risks of the buildings. It was one thing to have tight spaces, tainted milk and no egress in the case of fire, it was another thing altogether to be put in harm’s way due to the decorative coverings on their walls. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for these families to live in those conditions.

I’ve lived in some shitty places, apartments with roaches and mice and drooping ceilings, but still, I really have little to complain about. I’ve been protected from the elements. Still, I’ve been at this apartment here in Albany for nearly three-and-a-half years and since I’ve lived her I haven’t complained about much. I know that $800 for a three bedroom place with two porches and hardwood floors isn’t a bad deal and that it could be worse. I could be living in Gabon, starving with only a tin roof over my head. Still, everytime I go into my bathroom and I look up and see the awful mold on the walls and ceilings, I’m reminded a bit of what the working class Germans, Irish, Italians and Slavs must have had to live through in those awfully tight tenements.

My landlord’s known about it for years and yet the mold has continued to grow to the point where it simply can’t be good to breathe in. Finally last week he sent over his small Englishman maintenance guy to install a ventilation unit in our john. I’m just starting now to understand how gross it really is.

Losing your car keys sucks

…I lost mine, my only set Friday night as I went back out to my car to grab some things I’d left in the front seat. I didn’t realize it until yesterday morning when I went out to get some coffee. I searched my apartment frantically. To add a turd to the punchbowl, yesterday was the first day we’ve had any good hot weather in months. It was sunny and clear and great for running in. Unfortunately, because of the frantic and irritating state I was in searching futily for the keys, I didn’t get a chance to run.

I was supposed to go to a friend’s luau and I did end up there late at night with my roommate’s car. I was pretty hammered within an hour of arriving. I guess it was a bad response to the stress of knowing that I would be paying close to $300 if not more for a new set of electronically equipped ignition keys. To me it just seems so strange that technology goes the extra step of making certain things that should be easy enough are certifiable pains in the ass.

What the fuck is the point of a remote or keyless car entry anyway when you can just open the doors with regular keys? If per chance your battery dies and you don’t have a door key with you, you can’t get into the car. Whereas if you just had an old fashioned key, you’d be able to get in. The same goes for those stupid computer chip enabled ignition keys. How does that make life any easier when I have to pay an assload of money to have it replaced.

With all these thoughts swirling through my head, I embarked on my friend’s party, making a few stops in my roommate’s Audi to pick up hamburger meat, wine and coffee.

I ended up drunk quickly, chatting up random folks I’d never seen and then eventually joining some strangers for a naked dip in the lake and a gratuitous naked walk to her jacuzzi where it seemed there at one point were eight people crammed in. It was nice to have that experience, although the soon-to-be-married girl who grabbed my, errr, well, you know what I mean, that was kinda weird. I politely declined. I was there for the stress relieving jet aimed at the middle of my back and the sight of breasts! I’d like to believe I behaved. Some people feigned irritation at the nakedness and others were just squares. Honestly, I didn’t care of someone saw my junk that night. I wasn’t showing it off to anyone but I also wasn’t hiding it. It was fun though.

Still, there’s the matter of the car keys, of which paying for will certainly cut in to my funds for my trip to California. My booze soaked brain lead me to spend a good portion of yesterday asleep. A short, funny sounding Englishman who does maintanence for my apartment has been over for the last two days, cutting a hole in the ceiling of our bathroom to let the steam escape. I’ll show some photos of the mold that has been accruing for the last, I don’t know, decade. It’s only taken three years for my landlord to get someone to fix it and when he finally does pay this gentleman, he sends him over without telling us. My dog is a spas, but luckily the Liverpudlian with the long hair and cut off concert t-shirts has two “bitches” of his own and ‘don min ya, Marcus, cause I know I’d put ya down wit me fists, I add to. Right, mate?”

I feel sorry for this guy. He’s cutting through our ceiling into an attic space that is certainly littered with dead squirrels and other animals.