Kathleen Horan, Reporter, WNYC News
Kathleen Horan is a staff reporter for New York Public Radio, covering the neighborhood beat. She also reports 'Reset', an ongoing series documenting police-community relations in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
In a little over two weeks, 11 people have been shot in Brownsville, Brooklyn, including a 15-year-old boy named Tyquan Jamison. He died from a single bullet wound last Monday. WNYC's Kathleen Horan visited the East New York community where, for many, living with the threat of violence has become a way of life.
It's hot summer day and, at first, it's hard to detect anything out of the ordinary in the neighborhood. But the sound of a New York Police Department helicopter flying low overhead is a reminder.
Down the street from where Tyquan Jamison was shot, several men are hanging out on a stoop on Christopher Street.
Shawn Harvard is the first to speak about the persistent violence. The 39-year-old has lived in Brownsville most of his life and he says when you're young it’s easier to get drawn into the wrong things. He should know. When he was 13, he was shot six times.
Harvard has scars all over his body; the last bullet will be removed next month. He said he tried to stay out of trouble as a kid, but the pull was too strong.
"I was good in school," he says. "The streets -- the streets caught me and instead of doing the right thing, I went the wrong way."
Fred Daniels is also hanging out on the stoop. He says 2 of his close family members were also shot within the last year.
"My little brother got killed…and this year my cousin, DJ, got killed right here on Mother Gaston and Hall," the 41-year-old Daniels says. "Both from gun violence. They were in their cars and somebody just took their lives"
The NYPD says they’ve stepped up patrols in the area and are doing everything possible to curtail the shootings.
Two blocks away, outside the Seth Low projects where Tyquan lived, family and friends are gathering to have a candlelight vigil. His mother, Wendy Jamison, is standing, leaning on a fence near a makeshift memorial. Candles and handwritten messages are scrawled with his nickname, "Nookie."
Jamison says it’s important for people to know that Tyquan was well behaved and honest. That gave her a sense of security, and she would allow him sometimes to stay our late, and attend parties. "I didn't have to worry about my son when he went to these parties," she says. "I knew what type of person he was, so I let him to go."
Jamison believes her son was shot after doing the one thing she told him not to do: play basketball at a nearby court where there are often conflicts with kids who live at a neighboring housing project. Hours later, her son was found a few blocks away, with a bullet wound in his torso. She says she's haunted by thoughts that he died crying out for her.
“I know he was scared," Jamison says. "I know he was crying for me....He thought I was coming. He didn’t think he was going to die."
Tyquan's 11-year-old younger brother comes up to comfort his mom. Pastor Wille Barlow who's there to say a few words of prayer at the candlelight vigil, looks at the pictures of Tyquan and shakes his head. He says the guns need to go, but its not just about having more cops on the street. "We have plenty of cops," Barlow insists. "We have enough cops in this community, but something is wrong that we can't get these guns off the street."
More than 100 gather around Pastor Barlow lighting candles, saying prayers for Tyquan and offering support.
As the procession begins, a man standing nearby wearing sunglasses is clasping his hands tightly. He looks angry. M. Morton Hall says he's lived in the community for more than 50 years and believes violence like this wouldn't be accepted in other parts of the city.
“If this occurred in a Caucasian community, there would be an uproar," he says. "There would probably be troops or whatever else – something would be done. Some kind of resources would be brought if in 15 days 11 shootings….A police state is not the solution. The solution to this is doing whatever they can to help these young kids.”
The funeral for Tyquan Jamison will be held on Monday evening at the Highway and Hedges Church behind the housing project where he lived.