Tonawanda News

November 20, 2013

Owner of Ying's claims racial discrimination by Town

By Jessica Bagley and Michael Regan jessica.bagley@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The owner of Ying’s Wings and Things restaurant on Eggert Road is accusing Town of Tonawanda police of racial profiling after a shooting took place in his parking lot over the weekend.

Jimmy Ying, who’s given name is Haibo Jiang, was charged with criminal nuisance early Sunday following the incident and stated that police are targeting him, his employees and his patrons.  He said the problem began Sept. 14 when he began holding Saturday night college parties at the restaurant featuring a DJ who plays hip hop music. 

Between 100 and 150 students attend the non-alcohol events, which are hosted by promoter 100 Entertainment. Ying said the vast majority of those who attended the events were African American. 

“They are checking the blacks. I don’t think it’s legal,” Ying, 52, said at Monday night’s board meeting.

A video released by Town police on Monday shows several dozen individuals running through a parking lot in front of the restaurant, with one grainy image reportedly showing a person point a weapon at another individual at 1:45 a.m. Sunday and firing a weapon. 

Errick E. Roseboro, 20, of Cheektowaga, was shot in the lower leg and released from the Erie County Medical Center. Police say they are continuing a search for the gunman, though an investigation has been difficult because few witnesses will discuss the shooting. 

Since the parties began in September, restaurant employees said they have been ticketed for traffic violations they didn’t commit, such as loud music and improper signal. Ying has received five nuisance violations since he began holding the Saturday night events in September. 

Ying said he was taken into custody early Sunday morning and held for six hours without being permitted to make a phone call.  

But issues of harassment by Town police began weeks earlier, said Ying, who has owned the restaurant in the same locale for 24 years. While Ying admits that “small fights” took place inside the establishment during the Saturday shows, he said an inordinately strong police presence began from the very beginning and without cause. 

A claim perhaps bolstered by the owner of a private security company, who was hired by Ying to oversee the Saturday shows along with his trained K-9 dog. 

Jay Adams, owners of Adams K9, said in an interview on Tuesday that several weeks ago he was ordered by Town police to move inside the restaurant rather than patrol outside its doors.  

“There was a small fight in the bar,” he said of Sunday’s provocation. “The incident in the parking lot wouldn’t have happened if I had been allowed outside.” 

One employee, Melvin Moore, said he was recently arrested by Town police for soliciting, as he handed out fliers door-to-door promoting the restaurant. Other employees said they’ve also been accused of selling drugs. 

“I have eight tickets … I’ve been followed out of the place and pulled over in the same exact spot,” Ralph Jones, a delivery driver for the restaurant, said.

But Town of Tonawanda Police Chief Anthony Palumbo said police are only attempting to protect public safety outside the restaurant, where patrons have often fought and drank.

“Mr. Ying is running an operation that is not conducive to his patrons or to the general public,” he said. “It is an unruly premise and we are going to enforce the law.”

One meeting attendee said she saw two girls fighting outside the bar in October, and when police arrived, they were harassed.

Another resident, who lives behind the bar, said that liquor bottles have been thrown into his neighbor’s back yards — even though the restaurant does not have a liquor license.

“Why are there liquor bottles if you don’t have a liquor license?” Board member John Bargnesi asked Ying.

Ying acknowledged that his patrons have been drinking outside the restaurant.

“It’s common to bring a drink, to have it before,” he said.

At the end of the meeting Monday, Palumbo spoke again and told attendees that if they feel they have been wronged, they can file a complaint about police conduct with the department.

“There is always a recourse,” he said, adding that filing a complaint under penalty of perjury is often more difficult than publicizing a problem in the media. “If someone has a legitimate complaint, we’ll listen and investigate.”

Ying has done just that. He filed a complaint with the NAACP on Oct. 18, alleging racial discrimination. He then followed up with the state Attorney General’s Office on Oct. 25. 

But board members this week threw their support to Palumbo and told Ying that he is responsible for the conduct outside of the parking lot.

“Any other bar, any other group, whether they are white or black … if they are drinking or doing drugs, the police department is going to come by,” Board member Dan Crangle said.

And for the meantime, Ying said he will cancel the Saturday shows. 

“This could cause me to lose business,” he said. “Maybe put me out of business.”