YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Youngstown detectives say they need help in figuring out who fired the shots that killed an 18-year-old man playing basketball in July.
Detective Sgt. Chad Zubal and his partner Detective Sgt. Michael Lambert said they have a lot of ballistic evidence to process in the death of Brandon Wesley, 19, who was shot to death July 18 at Homestead Park on the South Side.
Zubal said Wesley was playing basketball when two groups of people came into the park and began shooting at each other.
That prompted other people who were in the park to pick up guns they had and begin firing. Somewhere in the gunfire, Wesley was hit and killed.
Zubal said Wesley was not part of any of the gunfire nor has he ever been in any kind of trouble. He happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“We have no reason to believe he was involved in any type of illegal activity. It is a very sad case,” Zubal said.
Although detectives have collected physical evidence, including DNA, they’ve had trouble locating witnesses willing to tell what happened.
“There were a lot of people shooting at a lot of people,” Lambert said of the scene at the park. “There were a lot of people firing guns who were not involved.”
Its been a long, difficult three months for Wesley’s mother, Lynette Wesley, and her family.
“I pray every day ’cause it’s hard for me every day, and I was hoping somebody would, you know, help me and tell the story as to what happened,” she said.
Lynette Wesley is frustrated that people who know about the crime have kept quiet. She also feels police are keeping her out of the loop.
“I understand them not wanting anybody else to know in the community, but I feel if they worked with me, one on one, I think we could have gotten more answers by now,” she said.
Investigators were able to determine who the initial two groups of people were who had been shooting back and forth at each other. Wesley was not part of the feud, they said.
The groups had been involved in a few shootings before Wesley’s death, but since then, there have been no shootings that have been attributed to them, the investigators said.
The detectives canvassed the neighborhood and had a lot of shell casings from a lot of different weapons to examine.
“There was a large amount of evidence recovered,” Zubal said.
Knowing that it can take some time before tests on that evidence can come back, Zubal and Lambert put in a lot of work at the crime scene and the neighborhood in the immediate aftermath of Wesley’s death, so they can be ready to move if a lead is produced when the tests are completed.
In some circles, it’s known as “The First 48 Rule,” which was popularized by the cable television show “The First 48,” which followed teams of homicide detectives in different cities. The premise of the rule is the first 48 hours of a murder case are important because that is often when substantive leads are developed.
“You have to do all the things you have to do in the first 48 hours,” Lambert said. “You never get a chance to redo that.”
As evidence is being analyzed, police are now reaching out to the community through Greater Youngstown Crimestoppers.
“Anything they do that will corroborate what we know or further our investigation,” Zubal said.
Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown wants answers, too, hoping someone will come forward and give Wesley’s mother peace.
“We’re trying to give them all the avenues that are possible for them to make a good, clear, conscious decision because you have a mother grieving the loss of her son,” Brown said.
Lynette Wesley said Brandon had dreams of becoming a chef and starting his own business. Now, she’s praying for the day she has closure for her son.
Anyone with information on Wesley’s death can call the Detective Bureau at 330-742-8911.
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