NIAGARA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo is the ‘City of Good Neighbors,’ and the Parks family from the Town of Niagara take that title to heart. Sunday, the family hosted their community for a unity event, after they were victims of a hate crime just weeks ago.
Johnny Parks has lived on John Street in the Town of Niagara for a decade. He is active in his community as a father, grandfather, former football coach and current football referee. He waves to every neighbor who passes by, often asking them how they are doing. For him and his family, it was shocking to find a racial slur painted on their backyard fence just days after the mass shooting at the Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo.
“When it first happened, I was so upset, shocked. I just didn’t know what to do,” Jazlyn Parks, daughter of Johnny Parks, said.
The family was even more surprised to learn the man who committed the crime was their neighbor. 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. There is no court date set for this case, according to Parks. An order of protection was promised to the family, but Parks said as of now, there is no such order.
On Sunday, the Parks family hosted a community unity event to bring neighbors together, saying hate has no home on their streets.
“We wanted to give back to the community and show that we are the city and the town of great people,” Johnny Parks said.
A GoFundMe raised almost $6,000 for the family, but they wanted to use the money for others. Some of it went toward the Sunday afternoon celebration, which included a DJ, food, a drive-by parade and shirts designed by a local company. Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti was also there to show support.
The community rallied behind the Parks family after their story went public.
“Home Depot showed up and replaced our fence panels,” Johnny Parks added. “We had Carrabbas come and give us food and everything else. Other places donated food for us during that week of trying to get over the fence.”
He wanted to host this event, using some of the donations from the Go Fund Me, to celebrate those who stood by his family’s side. Parks said he used another portion of the money raised to buy doorbell cameras for other neighbors’ homes.
“If they know there’s cameras in the area, maybe it won’t happen to the next person, and maybe they won’t have to go through what we went through,” Johnny continued.
Moving forward, the Parks family said it starts with education. Both Johnny and Jazlyn plan to advise the Niagara-Wheatfield School District, where Johnny coached football, on a way of teaching young people, faculty and staff to love and respect others.
“Teach peace and love. Don’t be afraid to say hi to someone. Just show kindness always,” Jazlyn said. “You never know what someone is going through at anytime, so a kind gesture can go a long way.”
Johnny said there is still money left from the GoFundMe, and he thanked everyone who supported his family in a time of need. He plans to use the money to help others. The Parks family is the epitome of what it means to be good neighbors.
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.