With gang involvement behind two Binghamton homicides within the past week, the city's law enforcement announced Monday that police are boosting their presence around neighborhoods and committing more resources to pursuing investigative leads.
An April 22 shooting on Orton Avenue and another Friday night on Fayette Street resulted in fatalities. At a news conference Monday in City Hall, Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said these crimes are not the result of a "gang war" in the city, though investigators believe gang activity plays a role in both cases.
The two homicides are believed to be related incidents, officials say, not random acts of violence. Motives remain unclear in both, Zikuski said, later adding there are no indications of a dispute over "turf or drugs" among gang members.
"The Binghamton Police Department nor the mayor is gonna tolerate these thugs shooting up our streets," Zikuski said Monday. "If they have some beef, this isn't the way to settle it."
Jihad T. Ray, 26, has been charged with a felony count of second-degree murder in the Orton Avenue shooting, which killed 22-year-old Brandon D. Hernandez, of Binghamton, around 4:55 a.m. outside an after-hours club near the intersection with Main Street.
Jihad T. Ray (Photo: BROOME COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE PHOTO)
On Monday, Zikuski said police learned Ray is a former member of the MacBallers, a subset of the Bloods street gang, but he got "thrown out" at some point. Fourteen members of the MacBallers from the Binghamton area were prosecuted in federal court after police raids in March 2014.
Zikuski said police are looking for multiple suspects, including one shooter, in the most recent killing, which happened Friday night at 10 Fayette St., just several blocks from NYSEG Stadium, where a Rumble Ponies home game was being played at the time.
Tyquan C. Gumbs, 24, was shot multiple times around 8:30 p.m. Friday, and police say his body was found at the rear of the Fayette Street property. A description of the suspects has not been released.
As a result of both shootings, Zikuski said, police are not ruling out future acts of violence.
"This is one side against the other ... so we're going to prepare for another shooting, if it takes place," he said.
"People that live in the neighborhoods that this activity takes place in should have some concern," he added, "but (for) the average citizen ... this is not isolated, this is not random. These are some people that know each other."
Regarding gang activities, Zikuski said, Binghamton is unique and less predictable than larger cities where rival gangs feud over territory. Here, he said, "it's all about money."
One of the biggest challenges in handling these kinds of crimes are uncooperative witnesses, according to Zikuski. In both shootings, he said, there are numerous witnesses who have been reluctant to come forward.
Binghamton residents should be vigilant about any suspicious activity in their neighborhoods, officials said Monday.
Police cracking down
At Monday's news conference, Mayor Richard David announced several efforts that are being rolled out by the police department in the wake of both homicides.
Patrol officers will have an increased presence in city neighborhoods, with overtime shifts to cover hours with a higher volume of reported calls for service.
The mayor's office also said the police department's Community Response and SWAT teams also will be keeping a tighter watch on "hot spot" crime areas to minimize response times to reported incidents, should they arise.
David said these efforts take effect immediately, then added, "Violent criminals are not welcome in the City of Binghamton."
How to help investigators
Anyone with information about the recent homicides is asked to call the Binghamton Police Detective Bureau at 607-772-7080. Tipsters can remain anonymous.