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Police Release Tapes of Conversations Between Teachers & Murder Suspect

1:41 AM, Nov 5, 2013   |    comments
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CHEEKTOWAGA, NY-- Cheektowaga Police released audio recordings between several teachers and a student accused of murder.

The police chief has described the calls as mind-blowing.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to read the police transcripts of the phone calls (WARNING.. there is explicit language in the transcripts). Click here to listen to the phone calls (WARNING... the phone calls have explicit language).

In May 2011, Dontre Jones, a former student at Cheektowaga High School shot and killed Ira Watkins in Cheektowaga Town Park.

Jones was arrested in February 2012, and while he was in the Erie County Holding Center awaiting trial, police say he had conversations with several teachers during class time and was allowed to talk to students in class.

Police say the conversations weren't criminal, but were inappropriate.    

By releasing the tapes, Cheektowaga Police Chief David Zack wants to set an example, that nobody should interfere with a police investigation. He said "the line was severely crossed" when one teacher mentioned by name a potential witness in Jones' case.

In the recordings, the teacher and Jones have the following exchange:

TEACHER: I hear [Witness 1] snitched on you.

JONES: Word?

TEACHER: That's what the kids said here.

JONES: Oh, uh...

TEACHER: I don't know.

JONES: I really don't know. I won't find out nothing until tomorrow.

Police released the recordings after a judge ruled that they could be heard. The attorneys for the teachers lost their fight to keep the recordings sealed. Jeff Kuemmel, the president of the Cheektowaga Central Teachers' Association, said he hadn't had ample time to review the recordings, so he declined an on-camera interview. But he did go on record with several comments in defense of the teachers, claiming that he's troubled by the lack of due process in this situation and believes the phone recordings do not accurately reflect the full context of the situation. Kuemmel also said he's concerned that teachers were not briefed on how to deal with Jones in their classrooms, since he still attended school before his arrest in February 2012.

Kuemmel said if the school board purses action against the teachers, the New York State United Teachers will intervene in their defense. He also said he's confident that during due process, a neutral panel will consider the context of the situation.

"If people knew the teachers, they would know they'd never support violent action or affiliation with gangs," Kuemmel said. "They're good people."

The teachers are on administrative leave and are still under investigation by the school district.

The Cheektowaga School District has not made a decision on whether to penalize the teachers or not. Superintendent Dennis Kane said he cannot comment because of the pending investigation.

Jones was convicted of killing Watkins in June.

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