City official shares his past to reach troubled Yorkers
When York City's acting director of community and economic development took the podium to speak to eight young people targeted in the first Group Violence Intervention call-in Tuesday evening, it's likely none of them was prepared for what he was about to share.
"My story's not different than yours," Shilvosky Buffaloe said. "I'm both a victim of and a perpetrator of gun violence."
Buffaloe tried to give hope to the eight, telling them if they utilize their second chance in the way he utilized his, they can have a life beyond the streets — beyond drugs, beyond death.
He said he grew up in Atlantic City in the 1980s, honing his hustle on blackjack and dice games.
"Crack, guns and death were everywhere," he said, and he lost loved ones.
He described his 18-year-old self as a cocky drug dealer. But that cockiness faded in August 1992.
While living in Allentown, Buffaloe got into a fight with his friend, who thought Buffaloe needed to be "dealt with," Buffaloe said.
"My victim was my quote-unquote friend — my boy," he told the eight.
The killing: They got into a fistfight over drug money, and Buffaloe suffered a fractured skull when Todd McClendon pistol-whipped him, according to a Morning Call newspaper report. The fight was broken up, but resumed again, according to that report.
Buffaloe told the group he emptied his gun into McClendon, then opted to turn himself in. He said telling his father and mother what he'd done were the hardest phone calls he's ever had to make.
After lengthy negotiations with Lehigh County prosecutors, he said, he agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder in exchange for a sentence of 7½ to 15 years in state prison.
"I was absolutely miserable in prison," he said, and tried to better himself while inside.
Second chance: He moved to York after being released, and he said he found that the York community was willing to take a chance on him.
"Not everyone receives a second chance," Buffaloe said, which is why he has tweaked the familiar phrase "there but for the grace of God go I" to "there but for the grace of York (go I)."
He told the eight that the tools being offered to them by the Group Violence Intervention initiative are the same tools offered to him after moving here, the same tools that helped him achieve his goal of becoming a college-educated professional.
Buffaloe said failing to heed the warnings of GVI to stop gun violence will likely land the eight in prison.
"It's not a game, man. They're not playing," he told them. "This is not a joke."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.