BUFFALO, N.Y. — Community members gathered near Goat Island in Niagara Falls in the search for Buffalo State student Saniyya Dennis.
Dennis, 19, was reported missing on April 24; she was last seen leaving her residence hall around 11 p.m.
Julia Stevens with Allies for Black Justice organized the search.
“We’re here to try and bring Saniyya Dennis home safely, end all, be all. There’s some information suspecting that her phone was pinged in the Goat Island area, so we’re just making sure that her face is everywhere, that everywhere you go in Niagara Falls, people know to look out for this girl, and hopefully we can bring her home safely," Stevens said.
Stevens said her organization got involved in this effort initially through contact with students at Buffalo State.
“We felt that it was important to get the community to band together especially for a young black woman and say that we need to find her," Stevens said.
A few hours prior to the search, Buffalo State officials and Dennis's family held a news conference.
“Saniyya worked two jobs. She was a mechanical engineering major. She was very focused on her studies. Very studious. She was a good friend. A good person. She has a good heart. She communicates as much as she possibly can," said Saniyya's sister, Keyora.
Keyora added, “It’s most important to know her character, and this is not like her. This is not of her nature. My mother always says she’s a creature of habit. She took pride in the work that she did. She worked for Project Flight, and she is an OA on campus as well.
"She doesn’t miss work. She doesn’t miss class. It’s also important to know that she turned in homework assignments on Saturday, up until she was last seen, so it doesn’t sound to me like a person who wasn’t planning on turning back to their dorm or returning back to school.”
Dennis' family members expressed frustration and raised questions over the speed of the investigation thus far, arguing that more should have been done.
"Why does it take so long to get subpoenas, to get cell phone records? Why does it take so long to get video footage of buses? If this was somebody else's kid, I think it would've happened like this," said Calvin Byrd, Saniyya's dad.
There was a lot of back and forth between the police and the family. For more information on the news conference, click here.
News broke at the end of that press conference that, according to Buffalo State police, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has video of Dennis at the NFTA's bus terminal downtown.
We will keep you updated as we learn more.
University Police say they're working with NFTA Police and police downstate to find Saniyya. If you have any information about her whereabouts you're asked to call University Police at 716-878-6333.