Submitted by Howard B. Owens on January 14, 2014 - 6:46pm
It took local law enforcement less than an hour today to respond to a reported burglary in progress at 28 Park Ave., Batavia, and take two suspects into custody.
The first, who was allegedly armed, was captured almost immediately about 100 yards from the residence.
The second suspect was the subject of a manhunt that involved officers from Batavia PD, the Sheriff's Office, State Police, a K-9 and a helicopter. It lasted about 45 minutes.
"We had the State Police helicopter up in the air quickly," said Chief Shawn Heubusch, Batavia PD. "We had the benefit of decent weather. We had several reports from residents in the area. Our officers responded very quickly. They set up a perimeter very quickly. Everybody did what they were supposed to do. That was the crucial element, to be able to bring all of those resources together in such a short amount of time."
It was a neighbor who reported the possible burglary. The witness saw two men knock on the door of 28 Park Ave. About 10 minutes later, the neighbor heard a loud noise coming from the residence.
Dispatchers received the report of the possible burglary at 11:28 a.m.
When police arrived, two men were seen running from the house. One headed east, the other west.
"It doesn't appear anything was taken," Det. Rich Schauf said. "There is evidence they were well into the house and, for whatever reason, they left in a hurry and were seen running from the house. The assumption is they saw that there were police in the area."
Arrested almost immediately was Nathaniel Davis, 18, address unconfirmed. Davis was allegedly found in possession of a loaded handgun at the time of his arrest.
"There was an attempt to tase him, but because he had thick clothing on, the initial tase did not work," Schauf said. "There might have been, I'm not sure if there was, a positive tasing at some point, and then (he) did finally fall to the ground."
With a perimeter established, Schauf said commanders on scene were pretty confident the second suspect hadn't gone far.
St. Paul's School, a private school on Washington Avenue, heard of the law enforcement activity in the area and went on lockdown. Schauf said both because of the fast-moving situation and because officers were confident that the second suspect was contained to a four-block area, other Batavia schools were not contacted about a possible lockdown.
"We weren't at a stage where we were in a planning mode," Schauf said. "That would have happened very shortly if this had continued on, but because it was fluid and all our resources were tied up in the pursuit, there wasn't time at that point to make a decision."
During the search, there were neighbors coming and going and residents coming outside to see what was going on.
Schauf said residents, as they appeared, were being instructed to stay inside, but if they saw anything, to call dispatchers.
Drivers were asked to keep moving along.
"You've also got to be aware that in this day and age of cell phones, this person could be trying to contact somebody to try and get him," Schauf said. "So we're trying to be aware of who's around that area."
The first order of business is safety, Schauf said, both for residents and for officers, but the PD was also confident they had the suspect pretty much trapped within the perimeter.
"That's why we are able to keep searching," Schauf said. "It was a needle in a haystack, so to speak, but we also knew there was a good chance the person couldn't get out of that perimeter, so we were pretty confident we could just keep searching."
At the start of the search, Deputy Brian Thompson -- on a well-deserved day off after being involved in a life-threatening situation where a suspect dragged him with his car before two truck drivers intervened -- was at the County Highway Department washing his patrol vehicle when he heard the call. Thompson had his K-9 Pharoah, not yet retired, with him and his gear.
"He thought his dog might be of service and absolutely he was," said Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster, adding that a K-9 officer is always ready for the call of duty.
It was Pharoah, whom Thompson has always praised for his tracking ability, who located the second suspect and chased him to the back yard of 48 Ellicott Ave.
"He continued to flee with the dog chasing him," Schauf said. "He went as far as he could go before giving himself up."
The suspect, 23-year-old Akeem Simmons, suffered a leg injury at some point during the incident, probably while running, but at this point, investigators aren't sure. He was transported from Batavia PD headquarters to UMMC by Mercy EMS, where he was treated. He was seen later at the police station with a leg brace boot on his right leg.
No weapon was found on Simmons, and a K-9 from the State Police barracks in East Aurora that is trained in weapons detection was brought in to sniff the path Simmons is believed to have followed and no weapon was located.
Investigators did find a discarded black hoodie.
The initial description of the two suspects was that they were wearing black hoodies. When Simmons was arrested, he was wearing a red hoodie.
"An obvious tactic is to change what you're wearing," Schauf said. "Once you get out of the immediate area, change what you're wearing."
Possible charges against Simmons and Davis include burglary, 1st, a Class B felony, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal mischief and resisting arrest.
This is the fourth high-profile criminal incident in the past six months in the City of Batavia where guns were involved.
Both Detective Schauf and Chief Heubusch acknowledged there is an increase in weapons being used by criminals locally and an increase of violent crimes in Batavia.
It does seem like there are more incidents of people who have guns, where we didn't see that before," Schauf said. "If you look at it for society, it's been a problem at the forefront for a long time across the nation. We've been fortunate that we haven't had that here, but you can only hold out so long."
The reason for the increase might be, Schauf said, because criminals feel a greater need to protect themselves from each other.
"When you read about what goes on in Buffalo and Rochester, we're not removed from that," Schauf said. "As a police officer, we are always trained to be looking so that we're not taken by surprise, but I think as a community, it's something people need to be aware of -- to look out for one another, like what happened today, and to just be more cautious because it is more prevalent."
The best way to combat an increase of gun-related incidents, Chief Heubusch said, is for members of the community to look out for each other, as a neighbor did today.
In addressing that question, Heubusch also addressed the possible concern from residents that there is an increase in criminal gang activity.
"I think people in this community should just be concerned about the increase in violent activity on the whole," Heubusch said. "Whether it's related to any specific group of people, the message we're trying to get out there is you need to help your neighbor. If you see something, you need to say something. It's very simple."
He said that rather than be concerned about possible retribution, residents need to concern themselves first with looking out for the safety and well being of each other.
"If you speak up about these people who you think are maybe in a gang or you think are may be going to commit a crime, you're going to drive those people out of the community," Heubusch said. "You're going to drive them out by saying we're not going to stand for it. We (the police) are going to back you up 100 percent. We're going to do everything we can to get these people out of our community.
"There's an increase in violent crime across the nation," Heubusch added. "We're not in a fish bowl. We need to be prepared. Our residents need to be prepared to take care of one another."
UPDATE: A couple of things left out of the original story. Davis is somebody Batavia PD has had prior contact with and is believed to be a longtime resident. Simmons is new to the community. Simmons was on an alert list for questioning by parole or probation and law enforcement had been warned to consider him potentially dangerous.
Asked if one or both of these men might be suspects in the recent armed robbery of a pizza delivery driver, Schauf said that's certainly something investigators will look into.
Regarding potential gang connections to recent gun-related crimes, a quote from Schauff: "It's something we don't overlook. It might not be stated as an obvious. Like the question you're asking, isn't it obvious? We can't go by obvious. We need proof. There is certain proof we need to prove that. It's something that we look at and we take seriously, but to say ... we would want to have more proof before I said that."