Family seeks answers in shooting death

Foday Kpoto had been in Schenectady for only a few hours last week when he left his aunt’s Linden St

Foday Kpoto had been in Schenectady for only a few hours last week when he left his aunt’s Linden Street home to meet his cousin.

The 18-year-old had just gotten off a bus from Maryland for a visit with relatives. His aunt, Vera Jones, handed him a key so he could get back into her residence without waking her up.

“And that was the last time I talked to him,” Jones said as she broke into tears Friday afternoon.

Just moments later, there were shots in the Central State neighborhood. Kpoto, hit twice in the head, fell against a chain link fence between two Becker Street houses and died.

City police investigators continue to search for the gunman who killed the former Schenectady High School student and son of a Liberian senator. Friends and relatives gathered at the site of his shooting Friday to make an appeal for information on the case.

Neighbors reported hearing shots around 12:15 a.m. last Saturday. Police arrived on the scene about a half hour later to find Kpoto’s body in the yard between 1759 and 1761 Becker St.

Grieving family members placed a makeshift memorial against a tree near where Kpoto died. They lighted candles and placed flowers by a picture of him taken when he visited the neighborhood for Thanksgiving last year.

“I’m just hoping giving him a name, a face and a family … will make him more real to people,” said Sharon Jones, one of Kpoto’s aunts.

Born in Albany, Kpoto spent most of his life moving between Liberia, on the West Coast of Africa, and the Capital Region. His parents were Mary and Keikura Kpoto, the father a French-educated politician and former chairman of the National Democratic Party of Liberia.

When Kpoto’s father died several years ago, his mother lost her diplomatic status and was forced to return to Liberia, family members said. He stayed with his two older sisters who recently moved to Maryland, where the teen had planned to attend college in the fall.

No matter where he traveled, Kpoto was always sure to maintain close contact with the family. Stormy Jones, another aunt, said he frequently sent e-mails from his travels abroad, eagerly anticipating the next time he could visit.

“He was always the one who kept in touch with his cousins,” she said. “He was a really great kid.”

Kpoto was planning to see his mother. Earlier this week, she was expected to arrive in Schenectady to see her son for the first time since they were separated six years earlier, family members said.

Instead, Mary Kpoto is staying in Maryland, where her son will be buried next week, two weeks after he was shot. Before then, his family members are hoping police can solve the city’s third homicide this year.

“It’s difficult for us to deal with our loss knowing that he came here to see us, that his family, his mom trusted us enough to put him on a bus to come here,” said Sharon Jones, an aunt. “He came here and he died, and we have no answers.”

Family members said Kpoto was leaving a Becker Street house with three other people on the evening he was shot. Police said two men fled the scene in an older-model compact car.

Friday’s vigil was attended by more than three dozen relatives and friends, many of whom fell into tears upon seeing the boy’s smiling photo propped near where he died. The solemn service was also attended by a number of high-ranking Schenectady police officials and Commissioner of Public Safety Wayne Bennett.

Bennett said efforts to solve the homicide have been met with silence on the streets. He urged anyone with information to step forward for the sake of the family.

“At this point it’s very much an active investigation,” he said after the vigil. “But like any investigation, it survives on information.”

Stormy Jones said at least one of the people who was with Kpoto has refused to tell the family anything about the events leading up to the shooting. She said the family continues to hold out hope that someone will break the silence.

“It is interesting how fast the word travels and how quiet it is now,” she said. “We just hope someone will come forward and tell the truth.”

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