Shooting

Falls police investigate the scene of a fatal shooting on South Avenue on Saturday night.

As a vigil for Marsha McWilson’s son Jaylan was ending on Sunday afternoon, his mother, a beloved gospel and blues singer from the Falls, let out a sad and mournful cry from the porch of her South Avenue home.

“It was a scream,” said former Falls City Council Member Ezra Scott, a long-time friend of Jaylan and the McWilson family. “It was the scream of a mother who not only lost a child, but lost a first-born son. She called him her miracle baby, because she was supposed to be unable to give birth.”

Scott said the death of McWilson’s son has left the North End community shocked and shaken.

“It hits hard,” Scott said of McWilson’s murder early Saturday evening in front of his mom’s home. “He was a good young man. I grew up with him. We went to Niagara Catholic together. He was making his way as a talented musician, playing drums and piano.”

But Jaylan McWilson’s life was cut short in what police believe was a hail of gunfire, around 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the 1100 block of South Avenue. The 24-year-old had just turned off the motor of his BMW sedan when the sound of gunshots shattered the usual quiet of the nearby neighborhood.

McWilson was reportedly struck by multiple rounds as he sat in the driver’s seat of his vehicle.

Investigators said multiple calls came into Falls 911 operators. Police patrol officers said they responded to calls of “shots fired,” which then changed to calls of a “man shot.”

When officers arrived on the scene, they found McWilson lying on the front porch of his mother’s home, gravely wounded. Falls firefighters and EMTs tried to stabilize his wounds and an ambulance rushed to transport him to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo.

After traveling just a few blocks, the ambulance was diverted to the emergency room at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. McWilson was pronounced dead at NFMMC a short time later.

Falls Police Crime Scene Unit detectives cordoned-off the corner of South Avenue and Lockport Street with yellow tape and said later that they had recovered spent shelling cases near the driver’s-side door of McWilson’s car. Criminal Investigation Division detectives have spent the last two days canvassing the nearby neighborhood in a hunt for additional evidence, including security camera video.

Detectives said Monday that they were working “a number of leads” in the case.

At the Sunday vigil, Marsha McWilson said Jaylan had been working and finally saved enough money to buy his car. She told the crowd she believes whoever killed her son was trying to steal his vehicle.

Investigators said they are looking at a number of possible motives for the slaying.

One of the organizers of the vigil, the Rev. Jimmie Hardaway Jr., pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, located about a block away from the shooting scene, said the community is rallying in support of Marsha McWilson and her family. He told those in attendance that faith will help them deal with tragedy.

He told those gathered outside the McWilson home now to continue to rely on their faith as they come to grips with the tragedy.

“I really told the crowd that there’s not much we can say right now,” Hardaway said. “We depend on our faith, our trust in God.”

Hardaway has gained notoriety for suing New York state to block provisions of the Concealed Carry Improvement Act (CCIA). The law is a response from the state to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a previous statute that required a “special purpose” to carry a firearm in public.

Hardaway, who is licensed to carry a firearm, challenged a provision of the law that barred bring a weapon into a place of worship. The pastor said he brought his gun to church to protect his congregation.

He says the South Avenue neighborhood where his church is located, and the McWilson’s live, isn’t “safe.”

“There’s just a concern for safety,” Hardaway said. “People say, ‘Put police out on the streets’, but they can’t be everywhere. It’s a concern because this is our neighborhood.”

In the meantime, Scott said the community will rally behind the McWilson family because of the support that she has given the city throughout the years.

“Violence isn’t the answer. This hurts,” Scott said. “Marsha is a well-known figure in this city and beyond. We’re all rallying to support her and her family and we are looking for, and counting on, justice to be served.”‘

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