In Crown Heights, Residents Reflect on Shooting That Left a Mother Dead

A nurse removed a police barricade so she could pass through with her car, shops opened their doors to customers and a nearby coffee shop filled up with people during lunch hour. The scene of Monday’s deadly shooting — Park Place in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights — that left two people dead returned to near normalcy by Tuesday.

But around 3 p.m., when the family of Denise Gay, 56, an innocent bystander and one of two people killed, came back home from the morgue, they could not enter their home.  The area was still taped off and police officers were not letting people in. After a terse exchange, the family was allowed in.

Around 9 p.m. Monday, two men began firing at each other four blocks from the West Indian Day parade route, which had ended three hours earlier. One gunman opened fire on police who arrived at the scene, police said. The firing spree left two officers wounded, one gunman in critical condition and the other gunman dead. A stray bullet also struck and killed Gay, who was sitting on the stoop in front of her house with her daughter when the shootout occurred.

“It was a senseless murder,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference.

Bloomberg said the tragic incident stemmed from the federal government’s failure to deal with illegal guns.

“This is a national problem requiring national leadership,” Bloomberg said. “At the moment, neither end of Pennsylvania Avenue has had the courage to take the basic steps that would save lives.”

Juan, the owner of a grocery store on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Park Place, who would only give his first name, said he was working Monday evening when the violence erupted.

“After I heard the shots, I went to the ground,” he said.

Juan said he couldn’t remember how long he stayed on the floor, but he heard police sirens shortly after.

At around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, as the rain drizzled, he became nervous. His store was in the closed off area, and he could not open it for business. “Soon,” said one of the police officers, whom Juan had approached, assuring him he would be able to go back to business.

Going back to work was what also worried Khalia Butler, a nurse at the Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation on Classon Avenue. After hearing about the shooting on the morning news, Butler, who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, said she felt scared of coming to work on Tuesday.

“Nothing like this happens,” she said.

Butler said she saw the root of Monday's violence in the West Indian Day parade, and thought it should be shut down. “That’s what caused everything,” she said.

Only a few blocks away, Alex Alexander, 43, a construction worker who was standing in front of his building on Franklin Avenue, did not think the parade was to blame. “It ended hours earlier,” he said.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said it was not necessary to end the parade, despite the violence that seems to follow it.

A newcomer to the neighborhood, Ivette Ale, 26, a designer who has been living on Sterling Avenue for the past year, said the police presence in the neighborhood has been strong year-round, not just yesterday. “I think there’s a reason why [it’s strong],” she said, adding shootings do take place, albeit less deadly than the one on Monday.

Still, Ale said the recent events haven't deterred her from living in the neighborhood. “I don’t feel less safe than I would in any other part of New York.”