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DA: NYC man charged in 2017 shooting death of Hudson man

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    Lance Wheeler for Columbia-Greene MediaMurder suspect Christian Simmons appears in Columbia County Court on Wednesday for his arraignment.
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    Amanda Purcell/Columbia-Greene MediaMurder suspect Christian Simmons is led out of Columbia County Court on Wednesday.
October 9, 2019 12:52 pm Updated: October 9, 2019 03:34 pm

HUDSON — A New York City man was charged Wednesday in the 2017 shooting death of Kevin Whitening.

Christian Simmons, 22, of the Bronx, also known as “Nahkye Tyler” and Dondre Tyler,” was arraigned on a charge of second-degree murder, a class A-1 felony, after the judge unsealed an indictment in Columbia County Court. Defense attorney Ian Crimmins entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of Simmons, who was arrested in New York City by the New York and New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force.

Whitening, 31, of New York City, was killed Aug. 22, 2017 in Hudson after a back-and-forth gun battle in the summer of 2017, which saw seven shootings in and around State Street that wounded two toddlers and four adults. The five-month gun battle culminated with the fatal shooting of Whitening.

Simmons bowed his head underneath a bright read hooded sweatshirt from a news camera as he was led into the court room by Hudson Police detectives.

“I am just happy everything is falling into place,” his mother, Tracy Whitening said outside of court. “It’s been a long two years. And I know it’s going to be a journey, but my son can rest now peacefully.”

Hudson Police have been investigating the case for more than two years. Det. Sgt Jason Finn, and Detective Nick Pierro as lead investigator were relentless, Hudson Police Chief L. Edward Moore said.

“The New York State Police contributed a staggering amount of time, effort, and resources,” Moore said. “We have worked with [Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka’s office on this matter weekly for two years. If my relative were the victim, I would expect that all possible resources available would be brought to bear, and that is exactly what we have done. HPD, the DA, state troopers, Sheriff [David] Bartlett, federal agencies, all on the same page, this leads to success and a safer city.”

More charges may be pending in the case against another person who was involved, according to the indictment.

Police say it was a fight between two warring groups with gang connections in November 2016 that turned the city with a population of 6,200 into a battleground between May and September 2017.

Members of the “more powerful” of the two groups was arrested in February, Moore said a press conference Feb. 6, 2018.

Whitening was shot in the chest and killed on Third Street at about 8:40 p.m. He was rushed to Columbia Memorial Health, 71 Prospect St., where he died a short time later. Stormy weather prevented Whitening from being airlifted to Albany Medical Center, his mother, Tracy Whitening, said in August.

Police believe someone else was the target. And family members say Whitening, who despised guns, was a bystander who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A few hours before his death, Whitening took the train from New York City, where he lived, to see his family in Hudson. He regularly visited Hudson on weekends to visit his mother, sister, nieces and nephews. The shooting left Whitening’s young son without a father.

“I miss him every day,” Tracy said in an interview in July. “He was a very humble person.”

Rensselaer County Court Judge Andrew Ceresia ordered Simmons to be held in Columbia County Judge without bail. Simmons is due back in court on Nov. 1, when Columbia County Judge Jonathan Nichols will preside over the case.

“The people are ready for trial,” said Columbia County Assistant District Attorney Ryan Carty, who is prosecuting the case.

In a statement, Czajka commended all involved, and, specifically, Detective Sergeant Jason Finn, Detective Nick Pierro, New York State Police Senior Investigators Eric Barnes, Kelly Taylor and Michael Castle for their “tireless efforts in this extremely complex investigation.” The DA stated that Finn had not stopped working on this case since they met at the scene of the crime shortly after the shooting.

To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.