Killings not random
Police say shooter knew at least one victim;
man questioned in probe
By CAROL DeMARE , DAVID FILKINS and ROBERT GAVIN, Staff writers
First published: Thursday, January 31, 2008, Times Union
ALBANY -- Investigators continued to question a man late Wednesday about a triple murder as top police officials assured concerned residents the killer knew at least one of the victims.
The bodies of Bobby Jones, 26, Victor Anderson, 25, and 16-year-old Kenyon Hankins -- who police believe was an "inadvertent" victim -- were discovered in the upper apartment of a two-family house at 190 Delaware Ave. shortly before 8 a.m. Police said all of the victims had been shot in the head. Autopsies are set for today.
"It was a tragic occurrence," said Police Chief James Tuffey, who added no motive was immediately apparent. "We racked our heads all day in the department about this."
The killings -- believed to be Albany's first triple homicide since 1994 -- place the year's murder tally at four. The city recorded three homicides for the entirety of 2007, the last taking place in December.
Detective Commander Brendan Cox, speaking to a group of area residents, said, "We do not believe this was a random act. We ultimately believe the perpetrator knew the victims ... I'm confident we will be able to solve this."
Hours after the bodies were discovered, police executed a search warrant at a Jennings Drive residence in North Albany. The warrant, signed by City Court Judge Rachel Kretser, was for the home of the man being questioned by detectives, an official said.
The sidewalk was closed much of the day as officers searched for evidence. At one point, city police and Albany County District Attorney David Soares went into an off-duty CDTA bus on Delaware Avenue to apparently discuss the case. Investigators found no signs of forced entry. A law enforcement source also said marijuana was found at the crime scene.
A police presence at the scene was expected to continue overnight.
The bodies of the three were discovered around 7 a.m. by a relative of one of the victims visiting the house after working an overnight shift, Tuffey said.
Emotions ran high as relatives and friends of the victims arrived on the scene just as the bodies were being removed from the premises.
A woman, identified as Jones' sister, dropped to the ground on Delaware Avenue Wednesday afternoon, screaming hysterically at the news.
"He was a good man," she later told the Times Union, "and a hardworking man. He had a family and a 3-year-old son."
Since July, Jones had worked for the Albany school district on its maintenance and operations staff, said district spokesman Ron Lesko. He had recently been assigned to work at North Albany Academy.
Hankins was a freshman at Albany High School and apparently was playing video games at the time he was shot, police said. Anderson would have turned 26 today.
"Our hearts and thoughts go out to their families and friends," School Superintendent Eva Joseph said.
She said a crisis response team will be on hand at the school today to provide counseling and support to any student or staff member trying to cope with the loss.
A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said the teenager was thrown to the floor and shot.
The crime scene is south of the intersection of Morton and Delaware avenues on Albany's 1999 "Block of the Year." Tuffey said the house in question was "not on our radar" and had not been the subject of police action before. The building is owned by Matthew Ryan of Troy, who said Jones has lived in the building a few months and paid the rent on time. The downstairs apartment was vacant.
Ryan also said the block has deteriorated since Albany police closed an outreach office at 200 Delaware Ave. As a result, he said, the area has "gone down" and he's had a tough time renting space out.
"It's a shame because I think this could have been deterred had they been there," said Ryan, who owns several properties on the block.
Tuffey and many other neighborhood residents disagreed with that assessment. On Tuesday night, the chief told the Common Council's Public Safety Committee that the targeting of hot spots with extra officers and the use of crime-mapping software is making a difference, according to a report by Capital News 9.
"Delaware Avenue, we had a lot of nuisances," the chief said. "People didn't call us. A couple businessmen came down and met with me and we have been targeting that area for a three-month period and we saw a decrease."
He repeated that point Wednesday during meetings with the Lincoln Park and Delaware Neighborhood Associations. Most who gathered at a house on Lincoln Park told the chief that things were better in the area than they have been in recent years.
"I think things are getting better, but we've got to persist and be preventive," Dean Hartley, a Morton Avenue resident, said. "There'll always be another problem situation."
When Hartley pushed Tuffey for more foot patrols, the chief replied that "I have X number of people. I have to move people around."
Shawn Morris, president of the Albany Common Council, said around two dozen people gathered at another meeting at the Sheehy Palmer VFW Post to hear updates on the case.
"I think, in general, people are horrified," Morris said.
The year's first murder took place Jan. 12, when Alfredo Tirado, 44, was stabbed to death on Elk Street. A neighbor, Antoni T. Williams, 25 of Elk Street, faces second-degree murder charges for allegedly killing Tirado.
Gavin can be reached at 434-2403 or by e-mail at rgavin@ timesunion.com. Staff writers Jimmy Vielkind and Tim O'Brien contributed to this report.