Rochester’s 80th homicide victim was a burn survivor, member of local burn community


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester’s 80th homicide victim this year was also a burn survivor.

If you recall the Grape Street arson fire in 2012, Waltquaries Evans of Rochester survived it by jumping out of a second story window, officials say.

In 2012, Evans was just 15-years-old having a sleepover with friends at their house on Grape Street, when a fire broke out. Officials say the mother of those children admitted to an intentional act that started the fire.

Four of her six children died that day, but Evans survived miraculously.

“It was a very public and very tragic event,” said Paul Schwartzman, Executive Director of Finger Lakes Burn Association. “The mom was arrested and convicted and imprisoned.”

Schwartzman runs the Finger Lakes Burn Association, an agency providing services and clinical support to burn survivors, like Evans, or ‘Junior’, as he was known by. 

Schwartzman connected with him immediately after the incident.

“We have a close working relationship, we know when someone is in hospital and we start bringing resources,” he said.

He says it didn’t take long for Evans to become part of the burn community, attending their summer camps and later becoming a counselor.

Schwartzman says his relationship with him was limited, but he remembers being there for his journey, and the healing process.

“Whenever someone has a life-altering experience your body and your brain learn the world’s no longer safe,” Schwartzman said. “With the people he trusted, you could start to see him emerge, he was a great athletic.”

Schwartzman says the pandemic has been hard for the burn community. Several in-person events have been cancelled or moved to virtual. On top of that, losing Evans makes this year even more gut-wrenching.

“He had a smile that could light up a room and he had groove, he could move,” Schwartzman said. “He had made some commitments to grow, to be a better person.”

Schwartman’s message to the public, is to be compassionate — you never know what trauma someone carries with them each day.

And to burn survivors out there: there is help, and a community waiting for you.

Police have arrested Derrick Gunter, as the shooting suspect in Evans’ homicide. The case is moving to a grand jury.

Police believe Evans was having an argument with a person near School 17 before this shooting took place.

Authorities say this was some kind of dispute that went very wrong, very quickly. The gun Gunter used is also believed to have been illegal.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article claimed this was the 81st homicide victim of the year in the City of Rochester. It has since been corrected to reflect the correct number of 80.

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