Urban Violence Claims Another Victim

Nov 4, 2014

As the city of Albany struggles to cope with a rash of gun violence and a perceived sense of danger on uneasy streets, there have been public discussions, candlelight vigils, makeshift memorials... and another murder.

On Monday, at approximately 3:45 p.m., officers answered a call at 139 Quail Street, a rough-hewn residential area not far from the state capitol and city hall downtown. Within a short time, a city block was marked with yellow crime scene tape and traffic in both directions detoured.

Nathaniel Lajes  lives a few doors away.     "I was at the work when I got the news. My neighbor, Ms. Beverly, had died. I couldn't believe it. She was basically like a mom to the whole neighborhood."

And so it goes...police say Albany has another murder victim, and a scenario that plays out over and over again on the streets of the capital city: family, neighbors and friends mourning the loss of a life, asking "why." Within a day or two there will be a vigil, perhaps a march, honoring Beverly Wyatt, who, according to the Times Union, was stabbed to death by her own son. Although this incident wasn’t a street shooting, nerves have become raw in recent weeks.

"Yesterday we lit candles for her, said our last prayers. It's a terrible time for everybody right now," Lajes said.    2nd ward Common Council member Vivian Kornegay says there is a culture of violence that local leaders are aware of and trying to head off.     "We have been leading to try and put our heads together to see what we can do to give our kids options. You know, what services do they need? What can we do to provide them with ways to, um, I guess, mediate issues they might have, rather than resort to violence."

Curbing violence has been a thankless, daunting task for all who've been trying, from Albany County D.A. David Soares to Albany city pastor Charlie Muller and other local anti-gun and anti-violence activists, who, despite their best efforts, haven't been able to break the chain.

Kornegay says while there is no single answer, the president of the common council gathered with a group of individuals dedicated to stopping violence.   "..myself, Dorcey Applyrs, and many others including our mayor, our chief of police, our assistant chief of police have been working on that issue and our common council president brought all of those people together in one room with other members of the community to try to talk about solutions. So there are some of us that know we can't do it alone. It takes all of us working together to get things done."

Albany police chief Steven Krokoff did not return a call for comment in time for broadcast.

Recent  violence troubles 3rd ward council member Ron Bailey, who suggests its time to stop holding meetings and take action, recalling the shooting death of a 10-year-old girl shot and killed in 2008...  "It took me back to the time when Kathina Thomas had been shot. And the city was in outrage and everybody came together..."

Thomas was a fourth grader, killed outside her home by a 15-year old Albany High School student.

Within weeks the outrage trailed off, and many promises went unfulfilled... and then in October, 2008, University at Albany senior Richard Bailey was shot dead by a teenager riding a bicycle just a few blocks away from the latest Quail Street murder scene.  The community again was outraged and people came together. Although statistics say there will always be violence in a city of 100,000 people, each killing takes a psychological toll.

Nathaniel Lajes stood alone in front of the Wyatt home at 139 Quail Street:   "It's sad how there has to be a death for everybody to unite when it should be like that regularly. But we should all unite as people, because this is our city."

As he made those remarks, a passerby left a lighted candle at a makeshift corner memorial.

One week ago Tuesday, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan held a meeting with police and other officials at City Hall.  A broader community meeting was held that night.