Randolph M. “Randy” Green was an advocate for the homeless, his mother said.
The 49-year-old Erie resident, a U.S. Army National Guard veteran who studied engineering and fixed tanks and medical equipment in his career, went out of his way to help homeless people in the city, Helen Arnold recalled.
“A lot of homeless people, he knew where they were and would take them food, buy them coats,” Arnold said. “Because he was a veteran, he especially worked with the veterans.”
One of those people Arnold helped, she said, was a North Carolina native who had lived at times in Erie.
Their last encounter would lead to Green’s death.
Erie police officers who responded on the late evening of Oct. 11 to a Peach Street apartment house to investigate a report of an assault that happened a day earlier found Green badly beaten. Green would tell officers that another man, Anthony Mcrea, had attacked him with a cane and kicked and “booted” him when he was on the ground.
Green died of his injuries on Oct. 22. The Erie County Coroner’s Office ruled the death a homicide.
More:Erie beating victim’s death ruled homicide; coroner says Tylenol overuse was a factor
Green is one of six Erie County residents whose deaths so far this year were ruled homicides.
With just a few days remaining in the year, Erie County is set to end 2022 with a significant drop in those deaths.
There have officially been four homicides, all in Erie, so far this year, meaning that people who were shot or assaulted in the city died here, according to the Erie County Coroner’s Office. Two other people, both victims of shootings in Erie, died at hospitals in Pittsburgh and their deaths were ruled as homicides by the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The six total homicides represent half of the average number of killings in Erie County over the past 10 years, according to Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook’s records. The most happened in 2021, with 21 homicides. The fewest, prior to his year, occurred in 2013, with six deaths in Erie County ruled as homicides.
But while some see the drop in homicides as a positive sign, there are factors in those deaths that raise concerns.
Juvenile victims, suspects
Erie has been plagued this year by a significant spike in the number of shootings and assaults involving people under the age of 18.
Numerous teenagers have been charged by city police as adults in gun-related crimes, including armed robberies and shootings that have damaged property, wounded people or killed someone. A number of the shooting victims have also been teenagers or, in at least one case, an elementary-age child, according to Erie police.
Three of this year’s homicide victims were children.
- Antonio “Espn” Yarger Jr. was the youngest at 7 years old. Authorities said he was walking with a group of friends near his home on Erie’s east side on April 14 when he was struck in the head by a bullet fired from a passing vehicle. Antonio died at a Pittsburgh hospital four days later.
More:Erie police ‘encouraged’ by progress in probe of shooting that killed 7-year-old boy
- Dazmiere Cherry, 16, died at a Pittsburgh hospital on July 21, five days after he was shot in the head while inside a Wayne Street residence with others. Authorities said he was shot with a “ghost gun,” a weapon that can be purchased online and assembled at home.
More:13-year-old charged with shooting 16-year-old in head in latest violence to rock Erie
- Audrey Maria Kellogg, 14, was killed on Oct. 29 when she was struck by a shotgun blast inside a Chestnut Street apartment. Authorities said her boyfriend was handling the weapon when it discharged in a bedroom while he and Audrey were hanging out with friends.
More:Update: 16-year-old boy held in fatal shooting of 14-year-old girl in Erie; shotgun involved
Four juveniles were charged as suspects in the three killings.
- Abbas K. Al-Harbi, 17, and 18-year-old Abdullah O. Ismael, who was 17 at the time, were charged along with 21-year-old Yussuf M. Hassan and 20-year-old Yassin A. Ibrahim in the fatal shooting of Antonio Yarger Jr. Prosecutors are seeking first-degree murder convictions against the four as their cases head to trial.
More:DA seeks 1st-degree murder conviction against 4 in fatal shooting of Antonio Yarger Jr.
- A 13-year-old boy, whose name is not being released because his case was prosecuted in juvenile court, admitted to allegations of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a minor in the fatal shooting of Dazmiere Cherry. The boy was sentenced on Nov. 1 to a secure juvenile placement facility for an indefinite period of time as is standard in juvenile cases, according to the Erie County judge who handled the case.
More:Police: 13-year-old handling ‘ghost gun’ when 16-year-old fatally shot in Erie in July
- Riley R. Shearer, 16, accused of handling a shotgun when the weapon fired and killed Audrey Maria Kellogg, was charged as an adult with offenses including involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree misdemeanor; and two felony counts of aggravated assault. He waived the charges to court at his preliminary hearing on Dec. 15.
More:Erie teen charged as adult in shotgun killing of his 14-year-old girlfriend waives charges
Gunfire also caused the death of a fourth Erie homicide victim in 2022, 30-year-old Shannon Crosby. Investigators allege that Crosby was with several other people on Jan. 27 when they attempted to commit a home-invasion robbery at a McClelland Avenue rental house where four Arizona men, reportedly in town to sell drugs, were staying. A shootout occurred, and Crosby was fatally shot while one of the Arizona residents was wounded.
Erie police earlier this month charged four people in connection with Crosby’s death: Erie residents Marsea S. Jones, 20; Jamie D. Smith Jr., 20; and Derrick S. Wright, 25; and Lawrence Park Township resident Julia D. Gaerttner, 32.
Efforts to curb the violence
Erie Police Chief Dan Spizarny said that while it’s good the number of homicides this year is down from previous years, police are still concerned about the recent uptick in shootings and people shot in the city, as well as the number of violent crimes being committed by juveniles.
“It’s fortunate that there haven’t been more homicides,” Spizarny said of the spate of shootings.
There have been 62 people shot in Erie this year, as of Monday, Spizarny said. At least 70 people were shot in the city in 2021, according to city police data.
Authorities have been working to curb the gun violence, particularly those crimes involving juveniles, through a number of measures. They include the ongoing expansion of the Erie Police Athletic League; the resurrection of the Erie Bureau of Police Juvenile Crime Unit, which was eliminated because of budget issues in 2005 but is expected to return in January; and focusing the “call-in” component of the Unified Erie anti-violence initiative on younger residents of the city.
Call-in participants are invited to the sessions, where they are warned of the consequences of continuing to commit crimes or of associating with those involved in crime. Event organizers offer the invitees assistance in turning their lives around. The most recent event was held at Erie High School in October.
More:Using Erie High as ‘call-in’ site, Unified Erie focuses anti-violence effort on juveniles
Erie County District Attorney Elizabeth Hirz said she is grateful for the decrease in homicide cases over the past year, and for what she said is the relentless hard work and dedication of law enforcement in keeping the community safe. But there is still a long way to go, “and we will continue to focus our attention on those who endanger others with guns and other violent acts,” Hirz said.
“Particularly, juvenile crime remains a concern, which is why we are working with law enforcement, schools and community partners to provide opportunities and positive alternatives for these young men and women. We have seen progress in the past year, and I am hopeful that that will continue as we explore new approaches to helping juveniles stay on the right path for themselves, their families and the community as a whole,” Hirz said in a statement to the Erie Times-News.
Beatings lead to deaths of two Erie men
The victims of two other homicides in Erie this year died after authorities said they were beaten by attackers.
Timothy L. Smith, 80, died at UPMC Hamot on Sept. 13 of complications of blunt-force trauma he received when investigators said he was struck by a garbage can liner and punched repeatedly by another man during a confrontation at a downtown Erie intersection on Aug. 18. Details on what led to the attack at East 11th and French streets remain unknown.
Smith’s accused attacker, Luis A. Salome-Gonzalez, 30, was initially charged by police with felony aggravated assault and other offenses. Salome-Gonzalez was charged with criminal homicide following Smith’s death.
Prosecutors said at Salome-Gonzalez’s formal arraignment earlier this month that they are seeking a first-degree murder conviction when the case goes to trial in April.
More:Prosecutors seek 1st-degree murder against Erie man charged in 80-year-old’s fatal beating
Anthony Mcrea, 50, the North Carolina resident accused of brutally beating Randolph Green in October, was charged on Oct. 12 with a felony count of aggravated assault, misdemeanor counts of possessing an instrument of crime and simple assault, and a summary count of harassment. The charges have not been amended since Green’s death on Oct. 22, according to online court docket information.
Hirz said her office is still reviewing the case.
Mcrea remains in the Erie County Prison on $100,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court for his preliminary hearing on Jan. 26.
According to Erie police, officers who responded to Green’s apartment house in the 3100 block of Peach Street on Oct. 11 were told by Green that he was attacked by Mccrea. He said Mcrea, who had lived in the downstairs apartment of Green’s apartment house but had moved to North Carolina, returned to Erie and was again staying in the lower apartment.
Green told police he told Mcrea he was not supposed to be on the property and that he needed to leave. He said Mcrea then became angry and struck him in the face several times with an aluminum cane, according to information in Mcrea’s criminal complaint.
Green said Mcrea left the apartment and went outside, and when Green then went outside Mcrea attacked him again, investigators wrote in the complaint.
Cook, the coroner, said after Green’s death that his office determined Green died of complications related to Tylenol overuse due to assaultive trauma.
Green, who leaves behind family members that include a son, had once helped Mcrea when he was homeless, Green’s mother, Helen Arnold, said.
“That was unfortunate,” she said of her son’s death. “What was worse was that he had helped this man.”
Arnold said the family last got together before Green’s death in August, when they celebrated his birthday. A memorial service for her son will be held sometime in 2023, when the weather gets nicer, she said.
“He had a lot of friends,” Arnold said. “He was just a good guy.”
Contact Tim Hahn at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNhahn.
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