ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Gates Police Department hosted a press conference with multiple local law enforcement agencies Monday morning to call for a stop to “the pandemic of violence” and provide an update into their investigation on a deadly carjacking attempt in Gates last month.
Two 16-year-olds are facing murder charges for that carjacking attempt.
Anthony Jacobs was arraigned Friday and charged with second degree murder, and Edgar Tolentino was arrested and charged with second degree murder in connection to the death of 71-year-old Richard Sciascia of Irondequoit — the victim in the carjacking attempt.
Police say Sciascia was the target of an armed robbery on Buell Road in Gates shortly before 11 a.m. on April 7. Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode says the two teens attempted to steal his vehicle which led to him being shot.
Sciascia was transported to Strong Memorial Hospital where he later died, police said.
Jacobs pleaded not guilty and will be held in custody at the Monroe County Children’s Detention Center. His next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday. Tolentino pleaded not guilty last week at a virtual arraignment at Gates Police Department. He is being held without bail.
Chief VanBrederode said Tolentino began stealing cars in Florida in February, where he and an 18-year-old female negotiated a test drive of a Mercedes through Facebook Marketplace. Once Tolentino and the female were in the vehicle, they drove off.
The police chief said Tolentino took that stolen Mercedes north from there up the east coast, leading to more carjackings in Genesee County, Livingston County, and eventually Monroe County.
He said the suspects used the Facebook Marketplace technique to steal cars, as well as bumping into vehicles to get the victim out of a car, or telling them they have a flat tire. Chief VanBrederode says the suspects’ tactics ultimately escalated over time to include firearms.
Chief VanBrederode said locating the suspect’s vehicle was a big break in the case.
“Our first order of business was to figure out how we could find this black car that was going to be the crucial part of this investigation,” the chief said. “RPD did a phenomenal job, they engaged that car in a chase, it didn’t last long before it crashed. There was a short foot chase and then the 17-year-old was taken into custody. The 17-year-old was brought back to our office and based on our investigation, it became clear that he was not specifically involved in the murder. I will tell you that finding that car was very significant in this investigation. There was evidence that was found in that car that would help up with the murder investigation.”
The Gates police chief says there has been a concerning spike recently in violent crime.
“We are in a huge pandemic of violence,” Chief VanBrederode said. “It primarily started in our urban area in the City of Rochester, which we all are connected to the City of Rochester. The City of Rochester is what puts us on the map. If the city fails, we all fail, and that spike of violence is starting to drift out into the suburbs.”
“When a heinous act on Lyell Avenue, where a man lost his life because two children, allegedly 14 and 16, decided to douse this man with a flammable liquid and burn him basically alive … How disturbing and how heinous is that?” said Clay Harris, founder of the United and Healing Through Hope Monroe County. “We sit back in our homes, and offices, and churches, and we go ‘wow that’s bad, that’s terrible,’ but were becoming desensitized and we can’t be. So we have to come out of our homes, out of our schools, and out of our churches because we have to change the hearts and the minds of these young people, because if we don’t we’re going to lose not only our community, but we’re going to lose our country because we cannot continue to go this way.”
“We often get asked about our crime statistics and how have they changed over the years and as chiefs we always are watching our crime statistics, but it’s more than just numbers,” said Monroe County Deputy Chief Mark Fowler. “It’s people, it’s our families, our loves ones, the residents of this community. That’s the important part and its going to get lost behind all the statistics.”
The Gates police chief said the issue of violent crime will take a community effort to fix.
“I can tell you that this was not going to be solved by the police, by the courts, by the school districts, because this is a people problem,” Chief VanBrederode said. “We are the only ones: Us, our families, our loved ones. We have got to take back what’s going on right now and instill in our loved ones respect and put down the guns and stop that violence. I can’t do it, the mayor can’t do it, superintendent of schools can’t do it. It’s got to come from that desire to not have our streets look like a warzone.”
The chief said this is a homegrown issue that needs to be handled locally, with accountability.
“You know what? We can’t blame some terrorist who came in here to do that,” Chief VanBrederode said. “We can’t blame people from Chicago. This is our own Rochesterians who are killing Rochesterians. This is our problem. We own it and somehow we got to come up with a solution about this.
“These kids were born and raised here in Rochester, they are a product of our environment,” Chief VanBrederode said. “I can tell you, that as we spoke to some of these kids, I was extremely concerned with the hardcore attitude that they hard. No moral compass, which leads us all to that question: How is it possible that a 16-year-old raised in our community can become what they become.”
The Gates police chief said recent changes in state law on parole and custody have led to more violence.
“There’s been multiple reforms that have been made with the criminal justice system for the last three years,” Chief VanBrederode said. “We’ve bad bail reform, parole reform, and Raise the Age, and with those reforms … I think we’d all agree we’d love to see some changes. It all about changing behavior, we’d love to change the kids. We have youth, unfortunately, that are idolizing violence, weapons, cash, cars and in fact they even made a video for you. We had a car chase in the city a couple weeks go, I think it was a carjacking. Car full of teenagers and they actually Facebook-lived it, being chase by police. This is a problem, this is a huge problem of how do we change that and it starts with each individual. This is a people problem.”
“If you look at most of these initiatives and reforms, it really has taken judges, elected judges, which comes from the power of the people, elected judges no longer have that authority to mandate someone to a jail to be held for further proceedings,” said Livingston County Sheriff Tom Dougherty.
“There is an area where we can find common ground that maybe the legislation should be changed,” said Rochester City School Board President Van White. “Nobody — Black, white, rich, poor, city, suburban — nobody wants someone released who is a predicate violent felon. Everybody would want judges and a system that say here ‘listen because of your history, I don’t want you out on the streets.’ While we may agree and disagree on certain things, we along the way can find steps to stand together in faith and turn around and discourage violence.”
Jacobs was turned into authorities on Friday, accompanied with his mother.
“I would suggest to you that on Friday when the mother came and turned him over, that was not something that she did out of the goodness of her heart,” Chief VanBrederode said. “It was done because they were backed up into a corner and she realized the best thing to do at this point, for the good of their family, was to turn him over to the police. That was not a great gesture of kindness done out of compassion. That was done because of the task force, the fugitive tasks force and all the pressure that had been put on them to cough him up.”
Full press conference:
This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.