Binghamton community members have come together to express support for the 12-year-old victim of a recent shooting.
On Thursday at 10:09 p.m., the Binghamton Police Department (BPD) responded to a report of shots fired at the area of Bigelow Street and Chamberlain Street. Upon arrival to the scene, officers found Aliza Spencer, an East Middle School sixth grader, with a gunshot wound to the chest. Spencer was later pronounced dead by emergency medical services.
According to a press conference by Binghamton Mayor Jared Kraham, officers were unable to determine a suspect and are still investigating the incident. An initial reward amount of $10,000 for information leading to an arrest has been nearly doubled to $19,500 following matching donations from community members.
According to BPD Chief Joseph Zikusi, Spencer, who was walking with family members at the time of the shooting, was the youngest victim he had seen in his decades at the department.
“It’s heartbreaking, as the mayor said,” Zikusi said. “It’s a terrible thing. As the mayor said, all resources that we have will continue until we come to a conclusion one way or another.”
Since the shooting, community members have created a memorial at the corner of the two streets, with pictures and signs honoring Spencer’s memory. A GoFundMe page has also been organized, with $14,450 raised as of April 27.
Gina Faiella, 41, of Binghamton, created the GoFundMe. Faiella said she has been a friend of the Spencer family for years, and that the proceeds of the fundraiser will go directly to Spencer’s parents.
“My hope is that this money will help relieve some of the financial burden that comes along with such an unexpected tragedy,” Faiella wrote in an email. “Funeral costs, meals and lost wages, etc. Hopefully it will help with bills so they can take time off work and grieve without the added stress of worrying about how they will pay bills.”
In addition to funds raised through the GoFundMe, one local business has raised over $6,000 in an opening weekend fundraiser, donating all proceeds to the Spencer family.
Michael Huang, a current student at the University at Buffalo and former resident of Binghamton who had went to East Middle School, said he found the event heartbreaking, along with other incidents of gun violence in the area.
“Over the years, I feel that gun violence and crime have risen,” Huang said. “I know there have been efforts before to counter gun violence but in my opinion, not much has changed.”
According to Zikusi, the event is believed to be unrelated to previous instances of gun violence in Binghamton, including a recent incident involving shots fired through Binghamton’s West Side.
Some residents had taken to Facebook to express concerns with the lack of available information regarding the shooting, with officers still unable to determine a suspect or motive.
Others, like one resident of Bigelow Street who wished to remain anonymous, said the lack of information was understandable, with potentially few witnesses given the time and place of the incident.
The resident said he had seen his neighbors react to the situation in fear.
“Those closer to the scene have responded by keeping their kids indoors during one of our few sunny days so far this year and, if a kid is outside, their parent is close by,” the resident said. “They seem on guard and wary, but trying to put up a front for their kids.”
As community members continue to mourn Spencer’s death and raise funds, plans to memorialize her may soon be underway.
Faiella said she has been approached by friends of the Spencer family regarding organizing a walk-in Spencer’s honor and hopes to implement similar initiatives with the campus community.
“I also would like to have her added to next year’s annual “Tribute of Hope’ that is hosted by Crime Victims [Assistance Center] to remember victims of violence and support the families of those victims,” Faiella wrote. “If any students at BU would be interested in helping to organize a walk, that would be great!”
In a letter released to the Binghamton City School District on Friday, Tonia Thompson, superintendent of the district, remembered Spencer for her presence as a student.
“Aliza was a bright, talented child who will be profoundly missed in the Binghamton City School District,” the letter read. “Aliza also attended Calvin Coolidge Elementary School. She will be fondly remembered by her peers, as well as our faculty and staff.”
Kraham encouraged all those with available information to contact the BPD Detective Bureau at 607 772-7080.