Niagara Gazette

May 5, 2014

Highland Avenue shooter charged by police

By Rick Pfeiffer rick.pfeiffer@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — A Falls drug dealer and gang member, who is no stranger to police, has been indicted by a Niagara County grand jury in connection with a daring daylight shooting on Highland Avenue on April 17.

Prosecutors revealed the grand jury action against Joachim “Joe” Sylvester during a brief hearing in Falls City Court on Friday. Sylvester, 38, 1353 Ontario Ave., had been facing a charges of first-degree reckless endangerment, second- and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, attempted second-degree assault and second-degree criminal use of a firearm in the shooting. 

It’s not known what charges are contained in the grand jury indictment, which remains sealed at this time. 

Sylvester, who is currently free on bail of $50,000, is expected to be arraigned in Niagara County Court later this week. He is also the prime suspect in a shooting on Willow Avenue on April 15.

The Highland Avenue shooting was captured on video by a nearby store surveillance camera. 

A witness told police a suspect, identified as Sylvester, pulled up in a silver SUV in the 2700 block of Highland Avenue, at about 2:45 p.m., and began shooting from his vehicle. The witness said the suspect then got out of the SUV and continued to fire the handgun across Highland Avenue.

The surveillance camera tape shows Sylvester pulling up and firing from the SUV at a male wearing an orange shirt. As the shooting target runs across the street, Sylvester jumps from the SUV and continues to fire at him.

The victim gets into a silver Chevy Tahoe pickup truck and attempts to drive away. As the victim tries to pull out from the curb, he hits a parked car while Sylvester continues to fire shots at him.

The driver of the Tahoe leaves the scene, heading north on Highland Avenue. Sylvester hops back into his SUV and speeds away on Garden Avenue. 

The Tahoe was recovered a short time later in the parking lot of the Monteagle Ridge Estates apartments.

The potential shooting victim has not be identified. Investigators have not said whether he was wounded in the shooting.

Two days before the Highland Avenue incident, a witness on Willow Avenue, told police he heard two gunshots outside his house, at 6:38 p.m., and looked out the window. The witness said he saw a tan SUV, with a silver SUV parked in front of it, in the 1500 block of his street. 

A suspect was standing outside the tan SUV and he ran to the silver SUV before both vehicles sped away. That suspect is believed to be Sylvester.

Sylvester is no stranger to police, with a significant criminal record. Street sources identify him as a large volume marijuana dealer.

He was arrested in May 2013 after Falls narcotics detectives found him with a large amount of pot, some pills and a significant stash of counterfeit cash.

Investigators stopped a Hummer that they said ran the stop sign in front of them. Inside the vehicle was Sylvester and two Buffalo men with street gang connections.

Detectives also found more than 7 pounds of pot inside the hummer and a search of Sylvester then turned up 27 Opana pills and $1,200 in counterfeit bills.

But the drug charges in that case were dismissed by Niagara County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy III, who ruled that police stopped the SUV with Sylvester because of “racial profiling.”

Murphy called the traffic stop of Sylvester, and the two other men, a case of “driving while black.”

“No court is ever pleased that guilty men go free because the constable has blundered,” Murphy said in his ruling. “Even the guiltiest of men are entitled to the protection of the laws.”

Niagara County District Attorney Michael Violante has appealed that ruling to the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester.

The appeal involves only Sylvester and Shateek Payne, 36, 986 Fillmore Ave., Buffalo. Payne’s brother Michael, 29, who was also in the Hummer, was gunned down in a gang-related shooting in Buffalo, a few weeks after the Falls traffic stop.