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Buffalo teen facing manslaughter charges in fatal 33 crash

Julian Armstead, 16, is facing four counts of manslaughter in the second degree.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The accused driver involved in a fatal crash that killed four teenagers in Buffalo last month has been indicted on manslaughter charges. 

Julian Armstead, 16, is facing four counts of manslaughter in the second degree and was arraigned in Erie County Court in front of Judge Susan M. Eagan.   He is also charged with one count of assault in the first degree, one count of assault in the second degree and one count of criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree, all felonies. 

Released Without Bail

Prosecutors asked the judge to set bail, but she declined and Armstead was released into the custody of his grandmother with an ankle monitor and curfew, under a continuation of terms set earlier by a family court judge.

"This kid is out playing video games and there are four other kids who are dead," said a disgruntled Erie County District Attorney John Flynn. 

Despite all the charges being felonies, and despite four deaths being involved, under New York's Bail Reform laws judges must consider the least restrictive means of securing someone's  return to court.

Judge Eagan noted that since his initial arrest on less serious charges, Armstead has complied with all conditions of his release, has not been rearrested, and has cooperated with his probation officer.

"At this time, I am inclined to give you an opportunity to remain released with all these same conditions," the judge told Armstead, before advising him that if he fails to continue to abide by the terms of his release, then she will reconsider.

Armstead faces a hearing next week which could send his case back to family court where the potential penalties he faces would be severely reduced, according to Flynn, who says he is prepared to fight "tooth and nail" to keep the case in the adult court system. 

Horrific and Deadly Crash

Armstead, who for now is being charged in adult court as an adolescent offender, is accused of driving a Kia Sportage that had been reported stolen from Marine Drive in Buffalo. 

Police believe the vehicle was stolen as part of a social media challenge, where a video explains how to steal certain models of Kias.

Flynn said that while he can can prove Armstead was in possession of a stolen vehicle, he cannot prove who stole the car.

The driver crashed into a concrete barrier on the inbound Kensington Expressway near the entrance to the westbound Scajaquada Expressway. All five passengers were ejected from the vehicle.

"He was going so fast that he kind of rode up onto that concrete barrier," said Flynn. "And all five passengers flew out and crashed through the sun roof."

According to a lawsuit filed by the families of two of the deceased, which names Kia Motors as the defendant, the vehicle was traveling at around 100 MPH when the crash occurred. Flynn, however, would not confirm the speed saying the results of that part of the investigation were evidentiary in nature.

Buffalo Police say six people were in the car that crashed: Swazine Swindle,17, Kevin Payne, 16, and Ahjanae Harper, 14, died at the scene. Marcus Webster, 19, died at the hospital. The fifth passenger was seriously injured.



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