Three found shot dead in Albany

Three males, including a teenager who attended Albany High School and an employee of the city school
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Three males, including a teenager who attended Albany High School and an employee of the city school district, were shot in the head in an apartment on Delaware Avenue in what police said Wednesday was a triple homicide.

Police identified the victims as: Keynon Hankins, 16, Bobby Jones, 26, and Victor Anderson, also 26.

“All of the victims were shot with an unknown caliber gun,” said Detective James Miller, spokesman for the city’s Department of Public Safety, who rejected early reports that the men were shot execution-style.

“We have interviewed people all day long. There is no single suspect,” he said on Wednesday evening.

The last time there was a triple homicide in Albany was more than a decade ago, according to police. The latest killings bring the number of homicides in the city to four for the year, compared to three in all of 2007.

Miller said the shootings probably occurred late Tuesday or early Wednesday, but he did not pinpoint a specific time and would not discuss a motive.

A relative of one of the three males discovered the bodies at 7:15 a.m. Wednesday in the second-floor apartment at 190 Delaware Ave. The first floor of the building is vacant.

“I am not going to get into aspects of the investigation,” said Police Chief James Tuffey.

District Attorney P. David Soares, who was at the scene on Wednesday morning, had no comment.

By early afternoon Wednesday, relatives of the victims had been notified of their deaths and a group of females arrived at the crime scene at about 1:30 p.m.

Several of them screamed as one of the bodies was being put into a hearse parked in front of the house.

One woman wailed and rolled on the wet street and said her brother, Bobby Jones, was one of the individuals who was killed. He was a “good man,” “a hardworking man” who didn’t deserve to die this way, she said. She said he had just celebrated his 26th birthday and had a young son.

A man who identified himself as Mr. Anderson broke down in front of 190 Delaware when he arrived and then ran down the street.

Bobby Jones was an employee of the Albany City School District since July 2007, a member of the maintenance and operations team assigned districtwide as a “rover.”

During the last few weeks he was assigned to North Albany Academy (kindergarten through grade eight). Jones was at work as recently as Tuesday evening and escorted the principal to her car when she left the building.

“He was a very well liked and respected member of the maintenance staff,” said Ron Lesko, spokesman for the Albany City School District.

Hankins was a freshman at Albany High School, but Lesko didn’t know where Hankins had attended grammar school.

Lesko said district officials have no information on why Jones and Hankins were at 190 Delaware Ave. prior to the shootings. “We have absolutely no information or details in that regard. We don’t know how or why it happened. We will let police do their work and not let anyone jump to any conclusions.”

Lesko said grief counselors will be available today throughout the district.

“We will give students and staff a chance to talk about feelings and emotions and make sure our students are taken care of emotionally,” said Lesko.

Superintendent Eva C. Joseph released a statement on the murders on Wednesday evening.

“We were deeply saddened today to learn of the deaths of City School District of Albany employee Bobby Jones and Albany High School student Keynon Hankins. Our hearts and thoughts go out to their families and friends,” she said.

The neighborhood along Delaware Avenue, between the Elbo Room and The Spectrum 8 Theatres, is made up of one- and two family homes and many are for sale or rent.

One resident said she recently put her house up for sale because of escalating problems around Delaware Avenue, including graffiti, and what appears to be gang activity.

Another woman, who lives across the street from 190 Delaware Ave., said she came out to smoke a cigarette on her porch at 7:05 a.m. Wednesday and didn’t hear or see anything unusual.

“The cops weren’t here. When detectives came, they told us three people were killed,” she said. “This is pretty scary. It makes us think about getting out of here,” she said. She lives with her sister and both have young children and discussed moving out of the neighborhood shortly after they learned about the triple homicide on Wednesday morning.

Matt Ryan, who owns the building where the three murder victims were discovered, said the tenants were paying rent on time.

He said he had donated space at 200 Delaware Ave. for a community police station to Albany police, but he said Tuffey closed it a year and half to two years ago. “I donated a free location. I am very upset. I own buildings at 182 to 200 Delaware. I have people leaving cars with no license plates, throwing trash and breaking in. Crime has gone up because [Tuffey] pulled the community police out of that location.”

Ryan said having a police station helped the neighborhood and crime was down because of the police presence.

“I already tried to offer them a free spot,” he said, adding that he wrote a letter to Mayor Jerry Jennings and Tuffey urging them not to close the police station.

“I own 40 buildings, I grew up in that neighborhood. I was hoping it would come back. When he pulled it out it was like a punch in the stomach. Ever since police left, the whole neighborhood went down. I’ve tried to keep up my buildings the best I can, but it’s tough.”

The Rev. John Miller, chairman of the Albany Gun Violence Task Force, who stood near the crime scene as a light snow fell on Wednesday, said it’s troubling because the city’s murder rate for 2008 is now higher than in 2007.

Miller said shooting incidents were up, but in recent weeks there had been a quiet period and there seemed to be a truce between uptown and downtown gangs for a while.

He said that Tuffey serves on the task force and has done an excellent job of providing surveillance and a police presence in the South End.

The city’s Gun Violence Task Force is scheduled to meet on Tuesday and the public is welcome to attend, Miller said.

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