BUFFALO, N.Y. — A 17-month-old toddler and his grandmother were dead after gunshots ripped through a crowd of people.

A mother of five shot and killed with three children riding with her in a truck.

Another woman with two kids — murdered.

Innocent victims caught up in a rash of brazen shootings in Buffalo during the past two months. Police say many of the incidents are related to gang activities.

"Kids are scared to come outside and play," said Lonzell Wiley of Buffalo. "I'm scared for my kids to go outside and play."

Wiley knows well what life in the streets is like.  He spent more than 10 years involved with crime and gangs in Buffalo. Robberies and assaults are among the offenses he says landed him in jail seven or eight times.

"Everywhere you go it's like an organized gang. It could be as far as streets. It could be neighborhoods, downtown, 31, Fruit Belt, Central Park," he said in describing a number of area of the city plagued by gangs.

Wiley has seen a change in the way those gangs battle over turf and money with violence. He says there's long been an understanding among gang members to stay away from innocent people, but that so-called "code of ethics" is falling apart.

"If you seen somebody with their mother, you let them go, catch them another time," he said. "If you see somebody with their kids, you let them go. Any family members, any innocent bystanders. Now, if they see them, they're shooting up the whole house. Kids there, grandma there, it don't matter."

To Wiley, the reasons are complex but the bloodshed only breeds more bloodshed.

"It's an ongoing circle. You see the shootings. Fathers dying so (the children) are not raised right. Mothers dying and then they're getting into foster care and just taking this anger and making it an act of violence," he said.

That's why Wiley, 31, is trying to break the cycle.



After years of living on the wrong side of the law, the father of five has left the gang life behind. He doesn't want his kids or his mother to have to bury him because of it. Since his last stint in jail last year, he's now serving as a mentor to other kids through Back-2-Basics Outreach Ministries in Buffalo.

"When you think they're not watching you, they're watching you," he said. "Do positive in the community and not to live looking over my shoulder, not to walk out and get shot by doing something wrong."

Wiley believes involving kids in sports, job training and other activities is key to steering them away from crime.  He also says even if they're afraid, people need to speak up and tell police when they see drugs and guns threatening their neighborhoods.

"People are just getting comfortable with this. With grandmother's getting shot, with babies getting shot and now mother's getting shot. I would ask the community to just come stand up. It's going to take the community to come out and help us."