NIAGARA, N.Y. (WIVB) — In the wake of the mass shooting at the Tops on Jefferson Ave. in Buffalo, law enforcement across Western New York said it’s cracking down on racist incidents. One incident concerns graffiti found on a fence this week in Niagara County.
The Parks family has lived on John Street in the Town of Niagara for a decade. They say they have rarely interacted with the person now accused of a hate crime.
The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office arrested 60-year-old Howard Murphy and charged him with second-degree criminal mischief. This charge was elevated to a hate crime due to the nature of the attack. He was scheduled to be arraigned Friday and was due to be released after, with an order barring him from having contact with the Parks family.
“This isn’t going to be tolerated in Niagara County,” Sheriff Michael Filicetti said. “We’re going to work together to make sure hate gets stopped in its tracks.”
Monday morning, Johnny Parks left his house to get a coffee. On his way back, he found a racial slur painted on his fence. Police said it was his neighbor that did it.
“I never really had any interaction with him,” Parks told News 4.
Hate crimes are being investigated by the FBI in the wake of the mass shooting last weekend in Buffalo.
“We’re taking this and all of the other cases like this very seriously,” FBI Special Agent In-Charge Steve Belongia said. “Obviously we’ve had a lot of threats after the Buffalo massacre last Saturday we are following up on each and every one of those.”
Parks said he moved down the street from Murphy 10 years ago, and through all the years, only spoke with him one time. Parks said Murphy’s dog went to the bathroom on his lawn and Murphy refused to pick up after his pet, prompting a “No Poop Zone” sign to be put up.
“We’ve never seen the guy again,” Parks added.
Parks said he doesn’t focus on the hateful act, but on the people who helped his family.
“Home Depot said, ‘We’re willing to replace the fence. We want to take it down. That does not belong in our community,'” Parks continued.
A GoFundMe set up for the family has raised almost $6,000, but the family is using the money to help others.
“We’re going to use some of that money to buy wireless doorbell cameras for the neighborhood,” Parks said.
He said this is all about uniting the community in a moment when it’s needed most.
“Let’s educate everyone. Let’s move on past this,” Parks said. “Let’s show that we are great people. It doesn’t matter what color you are. We are all human beings.'”
According to Parks, the Town of Niagara has also agreed to add security cameras to the neighborhood playground, which is right next to his home.
The full Niagara County press conference can be seen below.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.