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

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


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.”


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Comments [6]

Mary from Crown Heights at Bedford

I agree with Grace, I've lived in the neighborhood for the last three years and have attended the parade for the last four. Two years I've attended the overnight J'Ouvert celebration. It's a great time to showcase the neighborhood and the culture of many of it's residents. I see people and families alike interacting and enjoying the festivities in a responsible manner. There have been isolated incidents of violence in the past, but they do not happen every year, in fact haven't happened in at least 5 years. I don't know how the planning committee or police could do things differently. There were 30 cops on my street Monday in a two block area before anything had even gone wrong. I think it is unfair to stop the parade because of a few misguided individuals and to feed the stereotypes about a dangerous parade or a dangerous neighborhood when things like this can happen and do happen anywhere.

Sep. 07 2011 09:44 PM
Rose from Norwalk, CT

I use to live on Eastern Parkway for 6 years, right on the parade route. I still have family there and I think I can speak for them when I say that I wish this parade would go away... Its the same thing every year. For some of the residents that live on parade route the Labor Day Parade is an assault that we have to deal with every year. Some years are less violent than others but this year seem to be the worst.

Sep. 07 2011 10:23 AM
Ellie from Franklin Ave from Bedford Stuyvesant

I've lived just off Franklin Avenue for 9 years and every single year there have been shootings, stabbings, and/or murders either during West Indian Day parties, the parade or just after. Every Single Year. At some point facts have to be faced. I am not suggesting the parade be shut down, but organizers, police and participants should absolutely spend the next year planning and training and turning the violent part of this cultural day around celebration 180 degrees.

Sep. 07 2011 08:48 AM

I live literally around the corner from the shooting and heard it clearly.

The above post claims that this was an "isolated incident with a person from outside of our neighborhood." Unfortunately for Ms. Clarke and I, her information is not correct (NYTimes: "Two doors down from Ms. Gay’s home lived Leroy Webster, of 637 Park Place, an ex-convict with a list of arrests dating back at least 15 years. Farther down the street, on the other side of the tracks, lived Eusi Johnson, an ex-convict who was recently indicted on a federal weapons charge.")

Parade or no parade, these two men were unfortunately our neighbors. But I believe the parade was a contributing factor to this and the other violence that occurred. Unlike the essentially one-day cultural heritage parades such as Columbus Day and St. Patrick's Day, the West Indian Parade is a non-stop 72-hour party that always gets out of hand (to put it mildly).

Let's reign in this parade to a more reasonable level such as NYC's other parades.

Sep. 06 2011 11:46 PM
Ivette Ale from Sterling Place

Just to clarify, I believe the author made a typo on the second-to-last sentence. The sentence should have indicated that the shooting did NOT deter me from living in the neighborhood.

Furthermore, I spoke about the ongoing police presence as a possible function of the gentrification experienced by the neighborhood over the last few years, not necessarily any ongoing "gun violence", although it does occur.

Sep. 06 2011 11:37 PM
Grace Clarke from Park Place

The nurse and anyone else who thinks like this has it twisted - The Parade ended at 6pm - this horrific crime happened at 9pm - This incident had nothing to do with the West Indian Day Parade – and should not be reported as a result of poor judgment by anyone except the shooter who lived 4 blocks away from the Parade site. As usual people get confused when they are interviewed by the media - for 15 minutes of fame - she sold out the parade committee who did a great job as usual trying to abide by the law and provide a weekend full of cultural events. This was an isolated incident with a person from outside of our neighborhood - which is common in urban areas. It is a quiet neighborhood and the business owners & residents have been working for years to keep the neighborhood lucrative and safe for our families. It is wrong to use this tragic incident to paint the entire neighborhood and its longtime residents as people who use bad judgment. We will join with the families who have been destroyed - and look forward to next year's Parade.

Sep. 06 2011 09:44 PM

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