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July 17, 2014

'It's unbelievable': Neighbors of Oakhurst shooting suspect say he was no criminal

— Although police now have in custody all three suspects in the recent shooting death of Tyrone Williams, some heavy questions still hang over the tightly knit neighborhoods from which the young suspects hailed.

What could possibly drive a teenager toward violence? Why throw away a future open to all possibility and trade innocence and freedom for death?

“I just can’t understand why they would do something like this,” said Daniel Gates, who lives just a few houses away from the Dorothy Avenue home of the youngest suspect, 15-year-old Fidel Cosby.

Cosby, 19-year-old Jaquan Watson, of Oakhurst, and 21-year-old Richard Cook, of Napoleon Street, each allegedly shot Johnstown Regional Police Academy recruit Tyrone Williams, 42, and left him to die on Grandinetti Avenue early Sunday morning.

“It’s unbelievable, man,” Gates said.

He said he was quite familiar with the three friends - he referred to Cook as “Richie.” They were always spotted together around Dorothy Avenue. All three attended Greater Johnstown High School, albeit at different grade levels.

Gates’ wife Debbie said Cosby was always polite and personable - one of the last people she’d expect to see brought up on charges of first degree murder.

“When we saw his picture (in the news), I was like, ‘No...’ ” she said.

Daniel Gates said the young men always had an interest in his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. They also seemed to enjoy his several dogs, which are kenneled behind his home. Gates said the boys were always willing to offer him an extra hand with lawn mowing or dog walking.

“They’d say, ‘Hey Dan, can I take your dogs?’ ” he said. “(Cosby) always asked me, ‘Do you need some help, Dan?’ ... ‘You need your lawn cut? You need anything done?’ ”

But the boy that Gates remembers fondly may be smothered beneath criminal charges that makes him an adult in the courtroom. If convicted at the adult level, Cosby faces life in prison. Gates said he couldn’t fathom how seemingly good kids end up turning to violence.

“They just like melt down,” he said, adding that it may stem from a lack of constructive outlets in city neighborhoods. “They don’t have much else to do.”

Mirra Figueroa, a 17-year-old classmate of Cosby’s, said she was close friends with him when they both lived in the Coopersdale neighborhood. When he moved away, they lost touch, she said.

“He was a great kid,” she said. “We used to play basketball together, ride bikes together.

“I’m very shocked.”

Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @JustinDennis.

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