Editorial: Death of 12-year-old Badr should prompt anger

“The Buffalo Police Department will not rest,” Mayor Byron W. Brown pledged on Sunday as the community reeled from the news that a 12-year-old boy had been shot to death while watching television in his family’s apartment on William Street.

That Badraldeen Mohamad Elwaseem’s death was a fluke – albeit a criminal one, caused by a stray bullet fired by someone as yet unidentified – makes the tragedy all the more heartbreaking. This shouldn’t have happened.

And so, the mayor offered precisely the right message with exactly the right tone. “We will continue to look for the person or persons responsible for this crime,” he said.

Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo echoed the mayor’s outrage. “This is a 12-year-old kid,” he said. “He had the rest of his life in front of him. I can’t even imagine what those parents are going through.”

The death of the boy known as Badr demands righteous anger from everyone in Buffalo – not just the mayor and the police department, but everyone who cares about safety and decency and the ability of people to go about their business without worrying that a bullet might come through the window.

It especially demands the cooperation of people who may know who fired the weapon that took this young and promising life. Brown believes those people are out there.

“We know that there are people that saw what happened. We know that there are people who know the individual or individuals that fired the guns the other night that led to the killing of this precious 12-year-old boy,” he said.

Badr was shot after 8:30 p.m. Saturday, when gunfire erupted in the parking lot of the Towne Gardens shopping plaza at William Street and Jefferson Avenue. The bullet that stuck Badr flew about 100 yards from across William into his family’s apartment at the corner of William and Mortimer streets.

Under the leadership of Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood, who was appointed just over a year ago, Buffalo officers have made an effort to reach into minority communities to build trust that was lacking. As in similar neighborhoods around the country, police here were often seen more as occupiers than as protectors, and not always without reason. Lockwood is trying to write a new chapter in that story, but he needs help to do it.

This is a moment for the community to take a leap of faith, trusting that the efforts of Lockwood and the Police Department are as sincere as they seem to be. The alternative is to risk sending the message that 12-year-olds can be killed with impunity, accident or not.