ALBANY -- Albany police on Friday afternoon announced the arrest of a 17-year-old in one of the city's recent homicides and several of other shooting incidents, including one last year in which a 3-year-old was hit by a stray bullet while sleeping indoors.
The arrest of the youth, whose name was not released because of his age, appears to be the first major break for police following a spate of violence in city neighborhoods in recent weeks. The suspect was taken into custody at an undisclosed location in Schenectady on Thursday, with the assistance of the Schenectady Police Department.
The arrest comes as the violence in Albany has been a topic of growing concern, with outside law enforcement agencies coming in to help the city police increase their presence.
The youth was charged in connection with a shooting on South Pearl Street on Wednesday, just outside an Albany County office building. The victim has been identified as Nyjawuan Thomas, 21, of Troy, who was shot multiple times. The suspect was charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.
"This individual was involved in a brutal daytime murder that not only took a life but placed other innocent lives in danger," Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins said.
The individual is also charged with two counts of attempted second-degree murder in connection with a June 8 incident on Central Avenue near Lexington Avenue, during which a 23-year-old man was shot in the torso and a 29-year-old man shot in the foot.
The youth was also charged with reckless endangerment and a weapons charge in connection with a June 23 incident in which shots were fired at a group of people on Second Avenue, though there were no injuries.
In addition, police said there was a bench warrant for the 17-year-old for failing to appear for sentencing in connection with a 2019 shots-fired incident on Third Avenue, in which a 3-year-old inside a nearby building suffered an arm wound. That incident involved at least one other person firing at a group of people, according to accounts at the time, and nearly all of those involved were teenagers.
Police wouldn't say where the youth was taken into custody other than that it was in Schenectady. "Schenectady PD was instrumental in ensuring that this violent offender was taken into custody," said Albany Police spokesman Steven A. Smith.
With Albany seeing an unprecedented level of gun violence during June, outside police agencies are coming in to assist.
The Albany County Sheriff's Department will have 12 deputies per shift -- 24 officers per day -- supplementing the Albany Police Department starting immediately, and lasting as long as needed, Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple Sr. said Friday. The stepped-up involvement started Thursday.
“Right now, the city of Albany needs help," Apple said at a press conference with County Executive Dan McCoy. “Everyone’s pointing figures ... Let’s push that all aside and just deal with the issue."
Additional state police will also be assigned to the city at the request of Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, putting more officers on the streets and in the neighborhoods.
"Every community deserves to be safe, and this is simply not acceptable behavior in the city of Albany," Sheehan said.
The stepped-up policing is in response to an intense period that has seen 15 shootings in the last 10 days, including four homicides. Three of the homicide victims have been from Albany or Troy, but one was from Niskayuna. Dwayne Fenner, 34, was shot multiple times in broad daylight on Third Street on June 18. There has been no arrest in that case.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Hawkins said police were making progress in working the homicide cases..
Hawkins said both the victims and the perpetrators have generally been young African-American males, though he doesn't believe the underlying issues are race-based. "What we have here is young men who have some sort of feud, and they are determined, absolutely determined, to cause great harm to each other," he said.
"We have a pretty good idea of what the underlying feuds are and we have a very good idea of who the players are, and a pretty good idea of where they are," Hawkins said. Later, he said, "Some of it is drug-related, some of it is retaliation-related, we've seen a lot of it from social media feuds that escalated out of control ... it's just a whole gamut in terms of what's fueling it."
“A lot of these shooters are young, real young," Apple said. “There’s really nothing worse that a young kid with a gun.”
Hawkins said Albany police officers may be riding together with deputies or state troopers in responding to calls. The outside officers may also help with administrative work, he said, freeing up city detectives and other officers to work on street investigations.
There was another non-fatal shooting Thursday night. At about 10:40 p.m., police responded to a shots-fired call on Colonie Street between Lark and North Swan streets. Soon after, a 35-year-old female victim arrived at the Arbor Hill firehouse nearby with a gunshot wound to the head. The victim was treated by firefighters and transported to Albany Medical Center Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said.
It isn't the first time Albany has seen a spike in street violence, which tends to be higher in the summer. In 2017, there were gang violence issues in the city.
“Yes, we do have a gang problem here in the city," McCoy said.
McCoy said the county is ready to put more resources into the city, including more community engagement professionals and mental health professionals to help the public deal with the violent incidents they may have witnessed.
"Law enforcement has the difficult task of keeping communities safe, but we also must invest all we can into the programs that prevent a young man from ever resorting to joining a gang or to a life of crime to begin with by providing them with the opportunities to succeed,” he said.
There has been one other potentially related arrest. On Thursday, 32-year-old from Albany was charged in connection with a shots-fired incident Wednesday evening on Ontario Street. Kareem Alston was arrested on weapons and reckless endangerment charges. Alston is accused of possessing a handgun and fired several rounds towards other individuals. No injuries resulted.
Troy also has seen an uptick in violent incidents in recent weeks, including a June 5 incident in which an 18-year-old was killed by a stray bullet from an incident police said he was not involved in. There have also been no arrests in that case.
Mayor Patrick Madden said more police are being assigned to the areas where violence has occurred, and he urged the public to cooperate. "These shocking incidents that involve illegal guns cannot become the accepted norm in Troy," Madden said.