Police Interview The Eyewitnesses
There was no physical evidence of any value recovered from the scene. The police ivestigation relied exclusively on the statements of witnesses present at the numbers spot at the time of the shooting. Five of the nine witnesses present at the time of the shooting were identified and interviewed within hours of the homicide. The remaining four witnesses were located and interviewed days later. The initial statements of the eyewitnesses to the police were as follows:
At 1:34 PM on January 27, 1998, within minutes of the homicide, Police Officer Carlos Hernandez arrived on the scene and observed the victim lying on the ground with a gun between his legs. Officer Hernandez asked Robert Jones who shot the victim. Robert Jones stated that was two male blacks, one with a green jacket and one with a yellow jacket.
Approximately one hour later, at 2:50 PM, Detective Robert Mooney interviewed Robert Jones at the 28th Precinct. Mr. Jones acknowledged that the location where the shooting occurred was an illegal gambling establishment owned and operated by Albert Ward. He told Detective Mooney that at approximately 12:30 PM, he was manning the door of the numbers spot when a man approached and asked permission to enter. Mr. Jones stated that he had a brief conversation with the individual, eventually allowing him to enter the premises to place a bet. Mr. Jones stated that 45 minutes later, the same individual came back to the numbers spot, put a gun to the neck of his uncle, Richard Jones, and ultimately shot and killed Albert Ward.
Less than two hours after the incident, Robert Jones described the shooter to Detective Mooney as a "male black, light skinned, with a light beard and mustache and braids. He was about 5'7 or 5'8, 150 - 155 lbs. He had on a colorful coat, yellow and orange with some red around the sleeves."
Within two hours of the shooting, Detective Thomas McCabe interviewed Phillip Jones, Robert Jones' brother. Phillip Jones was present the second time the shooter entered the number spot and described the crime in substantially the same way as Robert Jones, although his description of the shooter differed slightly. Nevertheless, he too described the individual as a light skinned black male with red hair, 5'10, 150-160 lbs, 30 - 35 years, wearing a wool hat, light colored jacket and black and white sneakers.
Detectives Mooney and McCabe interviewed witness Dorothy Canaday at her home on the evening of the shooting, January 27, 1998. Ms. Canady was 86 years old at the time of the interview. Ms. Canady told the detectives that she was at the spot talking with the victim and Robert Jones when two men announced a "stickup". Ms. Canady claimed to have looked the shooter "dead in the face" right before he shot Albert Ward. Ms. Canady indicated to the detectives that she would never forget the shooter's face. She described the shooter as a light skinned male black wearing a dark knitted hat.
On January 28, 1998, Detective John T. Lafferty and Detective Joel Potter escorted Ms. Canady to the Catch Unit located at 3280 Broadway to view mug shots of persons arrested from the surrounding precincts. Ms. Canady did not identify anyone from the photos, but described additional details about the perpetrators.
She stated the shooter, in addition to being light skinned black male with a dark green knitted hat, was clean shaven with a round face, 5'7 to 5'9, and 150 to 160 lbs. Additionally, this time, Ms. Canady told police that there were three perpetrators instead of two.
Matty Alex, a 71 year old woman, was a regular patron at the numbers spot. She was interviewed by Detective McCabe at 9:50 PM, on the night of the shooting and stated that she heard someone say this is a stickup snd then heard the person tell everyone to get on the floor. She stated that she got down on the floor with her eyes closed and her head turned to the wall. She further stated that she did not look up and could not identify the shooter.
At 5:00 PM on January 28, 1998, the day after the shooting, Detective Thomas McCabe interviewed Richard Jones at the 28th Precinct. Like Phillip Jones, Richard was present only the second time the shooter entered the numbers spot. Richard Jones described substantially the same facts with regard to the robbery and murder as Phillip Jones. On the DD5 pertaining to this interview of Richard Jones, Detective McCabe indicated, "Subject stated he can identify perps." However, the DD5 is devoid of any description of the perpetrators that may have been provided by Richard Jones.
On January 30, 1998, three days after the homicide, the police located Lorenzo Woodford, known as "Red" to the other witness, and brought him to the 28th Precinct to be interviewed by the detectives. Mr. Woodford stated that, at approximately 12:30 PM on the day of the murder, he was in a bar at 135th Street and 8th Avenue named "The Clique," which was also owned by the victim, Albert Ward, when he won on the machines. The bar maid called Albert Ward to report that Mr. Woodford had won and instructed Woodford to go to Ward's numbers spot at 2335 Eighth Avenue in order to collect his winnings. Woodford stated that on his way there he ran into Augustus Brown, known to him as "Blood", coming out of a candy store two doors down from the numbers spot. Brown told him he had some dope and followed Woodford into the stairwell of the numbers spot.
Brown told Woodford that he had the dope in his pants, so Woodford instructed him to come with him into the numbers spot so that Brown could go to the bathroom and remove the dope from his pants. Woodford stated that they went upstairs to the numbers spot and after Al Ward paid him his winnings from The Clique, he and Brown went into a back room to play the poker machines. He stated that after about ten minutes he heard yelling and banging and when he went to see what was going on a light skinned black male stuck a gun in his face. Woodford and Brown were then ordered into the other room where the rest of the witnesses were on the ground. From that point on, Woodford's version of events with respect to the homicide was substantially similar to that of the other witnesses. Woodford stated that since he never saw the dark-skinned male with a gun he guessed it was the light-skinned male who shot Al Ward. Woodford further states that following a sequence of shots he looked up and saw the door to the stairs closing. Woodford and Brown left the location immediately after Al Ward was shot. The two men separated and Woodford went across the street and immediately bought heroin. From across the street, Woodford observed the police respond to the scene, but he neither approached the police nor informed them that he had winessed the shooting. It was not until three days after the shooting, when Woodford was forcibly brought to the precinct by one of the other witnesses, that he spoke with the police for the first time.p>Woodford gave the following description of the shooter - "male black, 5'8 - 5'10, light-skinned, he might have had braids, a light mustache, brown eyes."
"Mostly I remember his eyes and his gun. I may have seen him before by Drew Hamilton projects and his hair was in cornrows. 20-25 years old, 180 - 190 lbs."
James Smith was interviewed at the 28th Precinct on January 30, 1998, three days after the homicide. Smith stated that on January 27, 1998 at approximately 11:30 AM he was present at the numbers spot when the bell rang. He told Rick that he did not know the guy, but Rick said to let him in. The man came in and wrote a number on a slip of paper, but Rick told him that it was the wrong piece of paper and threw the slip of paper in the garbage, writing a new slip for him. Scott said that the man told Rick that he was from the projects around there and that he plays his numbers on the east side. When asked who sent him to the numbers spot, the man replied the guy downstairs. After the man left, Scott left as well and was not present during the robbery or homicide.
Scott described the man as being a very light skinned black male, 23 - 25 years old, wearing blue jeans with big pockets that looked like they were falling off of him, a dark green sweater shirt with a zipper by the neck with white on the sleeves, a black knit hat with braided hair sticking out, and black and white high top sneakers.
Augustus Brown, known to Lorenzo Woodford as "Blood", was 20 years old at the time of the homicide. Like Lorenzo Woodford, despite being a witness to the homicide, fled the premises and immediately returned to his daily routine of hanging out on the street and selling drugs. He was not interviewed by the police until three days after the incident, on January 30, 1998, after Woodford brought the police to the location where Brown was selling drugs. Brown was taken into custody by the police and interrogated about the homicide. He told the police that he saw Lorenzo Woodford, known to him as "Red", on 8th Avenue and went to sell him drugs. He stated that Red brought him up to the numbers spot and introduced him to some people. He and Red went into a back room to play poker machines when they heard scuffling and voices from the other room. He thought a fight had broken out so he and Red looked out to see what was happening. A dark skinned black male then pointed a gun at them and ordered them into the main room with the rest of the people. Brown's version of events is substantially similar to the other witnesses. Brown described the gunman as being a light skinned black male, 5'8 tall, 165 lbs with jet black hair, a light mustache, side burns and light brown eyes.