A rash of gun violence that rocked Erie for much of 2020 culminated in early December of that year with the killing of a 13-year-old city boy as he walked home from a relative's house.
The death of Kasir Gambill, who died 10 days after he was shot multiple times while walking in the area of East 20th Street and Franklin Avenue on Dec. 5, 2020, would be followed by more shootings, with more juvenile victims, that stretched into early 2021 and has continued this year.
City police detectives continued to hunt for clues in Kasir's death, and urged those with information to step forward as they worked the other shooting investigations.
Nearly 19 months after Kasir was shot, those efforts have led to arrests.
Erie police on Thursday announced the filing of criminal homicide and related charges against two other teenagers, 17-year-old James I. Garcia and 16-year-old Deangelo Troop Jr., in Kasir's death. Police indicated the killing might have been gang-related, according to information in the criminal complaints.
13-year-old boy shot in Erie: Erie police detectives continued their search on Tuesday for information and evidence that could help identify
Investigators said surveillance video and other evidence and information collected and reviewed by detectives in the lengthy probe led them to identify Garcia and Troop, who were each 15 at the time, as suspects in the homicide.
"This was an exhaustive investigation that spanned over the course of the past year and a half," Police Chief Dan Spizarny said Thursday afternoon in announcing the filing of charges.
He said Detective Sgt. Matthew Berarducci and Detective Ira Bush of the Erie Bureau of Police's Major Crimes Unit worked closely with the Erie County District Attorney's Office in investigating the case.
Garcia and Troop were both in custody on charges unrelated to Kasir's killing when the new charges were filed late Thursday morning.
Garcia is in juvenile detention, according to Erie police. Troop is in the Erie County Prison on charges of firing 56 gunshots at two other juveniles on Feb. 20, injuring no one but damaging a Catholic church on the city's east side.
Troop waived his criminal case in that shooting to court in May under an agreement in which he would plead guilty at a later date to felony counts of aggravated assault, discharge of a firearm into an occupied structure, and carrying a firearm without a license. Two counts of attempted homicide would be dropped if Troop follows through with the deal, according to prosecutors.
Garcia and Troop each face charges of criminal homicide, attempted homicide, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering, possession of a weapon and carrying a firearm without a license in the death of Kasir.
Erie teen offered deal in Feb. shooting:An Erie teenager accused of firing 56 gunshots at two other juveniles on the afternoon of Feb. 20, injuring no one
Kasir was walking with a 17-year-old after they left a relative's house, on Dec. 5, 2020 at about 9:25 p.m., when the two reportedly saw a suspicious vehicle following them, Erie police reported after the shooting. The occupants of the other vehicle got out and began chasing Kasir and the other teen, according to investigators, and more than a dozen gunshots were believed to have been fired at the pair by what police called "multiple suspects."
Kasir was shot several times and was taken to UPMC Hamot before being flown to a Pittsburgh hospital for treatment, according to police. The 17-year-old with Kasir was not injured in the shooting.
Kasir died of his injuries on Dec. 15, 2020.
Spizarny said after the shooting that investigators believed the shooters targeted Kasir and the other teen. He said investigators could not say which of the two was the intended target.
But according to information in the criminal complaints filed against Garcia and Troop on Thursday, the 17-year-old who was with Kasir told investigators he had been a target of assault by juveniles who call themselves members of "FIVE," a local gang.
Erie teen dies of gunshot woundsLuvetria Gambill-Tate is asking the Erie community to keep her family in their prayers.
Surveillance video, cellphone data, tips from the public and a white car all played a role in identifying the two accused suspects, according to information in the criminal complaints.
Detectives wrote in the affidavits that the 17-year-old told police that he and Kasir were walking in the 2000 block of East 19th Street when they noticed a white Honda driving past them before it looped around and approached them again when they reached Franklin Avenue. He stated that he and Kasir began to run when they reached the 2200 block of East 20th Street, and that the occupants of the white Honda exited the vehicle, ran after them and began shooting at them, according to information in the affidavits.
Investigators said video of the incident showed an early 2000 white Honda moving east on East 20th Street and two suspects with handguns exiting the Honda. Muzzle flashes are seen and gunshots are heard, according to information in the affidavits.
Additional video showed the white Honda passing Kasir and the 17-year-old while they were walking in the 2000 block of East 19th Street before the shots were fired, detectives wrote in the affidavits.
Detectives wrote that police received tips that Garcia and Troop were possibly involved in the shooting. Police also learned that, on the day of the shooting, Troop had borrowed a white Honda Civic from a relative at about 9 p.m. and returned the vehicle about 45 minutes later, according to information in the affidavits.
Surveillance video showed a vehicle of a similar description traveling through the area of East 18th and Thompson streets at 9:17 p.m., according to the affidavits. Investigators wrote that they also checked data for Troop's cell phone, which showed the cell phone "hit" in the geographic area of East 18th and Thompson streets at about the same time the car is seen on video.
Ten minutes after the shooting a light-colored sedan arrived in the 300 block of East 11th Street, pulled over and parked. Data from Troop's cell phone number places it in the geographic area of where the car parked, investigators wrote in the affidavits.
Two people were seen exiting the vehicle and approaching a residence consistent with a residence where Garcia lived at the time, detectives wrote in the affidavits. Video later showed one person getting into the light-colored sedan and traveling to an area where authorities believe the suspect vehicle was initially obtained.
Investigators additionally wrote in the affidavits that they were able to determine through data searches that Troop and Garcia communicated minutes before and after the shooting.
Continuation of gun violence
Gun violence in Erie continued in the weeks following Kasir's death.
At least four people were wounded in more than a dozen shootings that occurred in the city in January 2021. The victims included two teenage boys, ages 17 and 14, who were reportedly shot at by unknown suspects in vehicles in separate incidents on Jan. 28, 2021.
Erie police seek suspects in shootings: Erie Police Chief Dan Spizarny said Friday that investigators suspect that at least some incidents in a recent spate of
Gun violence still plagues Erie. A number of recent shootings involved juvenile suspects and victims, including an April 5 shooting at Erie High School in which a 14-year-old boy is accused of shooting another student.
Teen consents to adult court in shootingThe 14-year-old defendant charged in the shooting at Erie High School on April 5 will be tried as an adult
Other recent shootings include the April 14 killing of 7-year-old Antonio "Espn" Yarger Jr., who was fatally shot while walking with others at the corner of Downing Avenue and Fairmount Parkway. Erie police have charged 17-year-old Abdullah O. Ismael and 19-year-old Yassin A. Ibrahim in the killing.
Pair charged in Erie boy's killing: A 17-year-old boy charged on Monday in connection with the fatal shooting of 7-year-old Antonio "Espn" Yarger Jr.
Spizarny said Thursday that Kasir's death shocked the residents of Erie, as the victim was only 13 years old.
"This murder is just one of many acts of violence involving the youth of the city of Erie, of which, there has been a significant increase over the past few years," he said.
In response to the rise in juvenile-related crime, particularly violent gun crime, Erie police plan to reinstate a juvenile detective unit through the hiring of additional officers. The city on Monday swore in nine new officers, raising its complement to 183 members, and police want to hire up to 12 additional officers through $14.5 million Erie City Council set aside for the police department from the city's American Rescue Plan funding.
Erie police add 9 new hires to force: Erie Police Chief Dan Spizarny told a crowd gathered in Erie City Hall Monday morning that the city police force
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Erie pair, then 15, charged in 13-year-old's killing in December 2020