Police, DA seek public help in shooting death probe

OBSERVER File Photo Police are pictured the evening of May 23 on Maple Avenue in Dunkirk. A 36-year-old city resident died from injuries suffered in a shooting.

What started as a shooting investigation by Dunkirk police last month has now pivoted to a homicide probe after a 36-year-old city man died from his injuries.

Police, with the assistance of the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office, have been looking into the disturbance that occurred around 4:30 p.m. May 23. It’s believed that at least three shots were fired in the area of 88 Maple Ave. stemming from an argument, with one round striking Antonio J. Watts.

After the shooting, Watts was transported to Brooks-TLC Hospital System in Dunkirk and then transferred by helicopter to ECMC in Buffalo for further treatment.

On Monday, the Dunkirk Police Department said Watts had “died as a result of the injuries he sustained.” Though police did not state when the city resident passed away, a funeral home in Buffalo listed the date of death as Friday.

In a statement, Dunkirk police said the shooting involved individuals known to each other and that it was an isolated incident. “There is no threat to the public at this time,” the department said.

Jason Schmidt, Chautauqua County district attorney, said two investigators with his office, have been assisting the police department in its investigation. The DA was at the scene not long after the shooting occurred.

“I am making a personal appeal to anyone with information to please come forward,” Schmidt told the OBSERVER on Tuesday. “Contact the Dunkirk police or me and my office. We are here, working 24-7 to hold the responsible person or persons accountable for this.”

Schmidt said there were witnesses present when Watts was shot. “There may even be a video,” he said.

The DA urged witnesses to come forward.

“Consider, however, that the shooting death of Antonio Watts happened in the middle of the afternoon, after school let out, in one of the busiest sections of Dunkirk while kids played and walked nearby,” he continued. “Thank God no one else was shot. We cannot give in to the violence.

“As a community, all of us owe it to one another and especially our children to do everything in our power to put a stop to the gun violence. … We need your help. If you saw something, say something.”

Shortly after the shooting, a number of shell casings could be seen surrounding the house and near a parked vehicle. Officers spent most of the time at 90 Maple Ave.

A vehicle from the Jamestown Police Deparment was present at the scene.

For more than three hours, small crowds quietly gathered around the location at Sixth Street, many with questions regarding what happened earlier in the day. Most expressed shock and disappointment while others lamented the actions that took place in a neighborhood appeared to be close in nature.

The main thoroughfare — the street is part of Route 60 — was closed until 7:45 p.m. that evening before it reopened to traffic.

Additional police officers were at Dunkirk City Schools the following day. On its Facebook page, the district said the “events have deeply impacted the Dunkirk community and left us all shocked and saddened. We offer our support and sympathy to the families and friends of those affected.”

The homicide investigation remains ongoing; anyone with information is asked to call the Dunkirk Police Department at 716-366-2266 or the confidential tip line at 716-363-0313.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today