CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Cheektowaga Police arrested 18-year-old Dontre Jones of Cheektowaga Wednesday for the murder of Ira Watkins on May 31st, 2011 in Cheektowaga Town Park.
Cheektowaga Police say Jones has been on their radar since early in their investigation. News 4 has learned Cheektowaga officers had visited the suspect's house dozens of times for various disturbances, but never arrested him. Sources say he may have been arrested in Buffalo on minor charges.
Cheektowaga Police Chief David Zack tells News 4 that a water balloon fight, which was mentioned on Facebook, had taken place a couple of hours before the shooting and attracted rival Buffalo gangs to Cheektowaga Town Park. Ira Watkins had arrived, according to detectives, with the Guilford Street group, but was not a member of the gang. The rival Humason gang also arrived at the park, according to investigators, and there was a confrontation. Police say Watkins knew members of both gangs.
Investigators say four or five shots were fired and officers recovered the gun believed to have been used in the shooting. Watkins, who was a student at ECC, was struck in the chest, the bullet piercing his heart. Chief Zack says Watkins was trying to mediate between the gangs before shots were fired. The actual shooting took place in a parking lot near the basketball courts.
There were many witnesses, but Chief Zack says it was difficult to get people to step forward with information. News 4 has learned that the suspect's brother was shot in a Fourth of July 2010 incident just three blocks from Town Park. The victim was 14-years-old at the time. His name has not been released. There's believed to be no connection between the shootings.
Chief Zack praised the father of Ira Watkins for having faith in his department that an arrest would be made in his son's death. Chief Zack says surveillance cameras in the park and the patrol cars that responded were of great assistance in the investigation, which was led by Lt. Tom Wentland.
The investigation took 8 months and 22 days before an arrest.
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