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.
All of these youths were killed outside, at night or in the early morning hours.
That's also where much of the grieving took place--on the stretch of sidewalk or street where they were gunned down.
The teens were called JayJay, Rozay, Sadonte, Kiki, BeeJay, Asia, K.T., MaoMao, Shallie and Rasmoove by the people who loved them best. They were the unlucky ones in a year of record low homicides.
They didn't just die in the most dangerous neighborhoods--they lived there. Chubby babies who grew into little comics, acrobatic basketball players and aspiring fashionistas. A 17 year old who would give you his sneakers if you said you liked them and a kid couldn't eat a meal without some ketchup.
The street homages in Flatbush, Bedford Stuyvesant and Far Rockaway document the flip side of the 'safest big city in America'. New York City is on track to come in below 400 murders at the end of this year, breaking all records. But if you're black or brown-- like the nine boys and one girl who were shot and killed during this series, you have a better chance of dying young.
That makes 17 year old Kaiim Viera’s mother furious. "It angers me a lot when I turn on TV and they keep saying crime is down...where?” Iasia Tyre’s oldest son was killed after being shot ten times in September, 2012 on Fulton Street. No suspect was ever arrested.
Kaaim's father was also gunned down on the streets of Brooklyn. After that, Tyre vowed her son wouldn't become another statistic. She feels ashamed that she couldn't keep her promise.
"As a mother you're supposed to be there, you're supposed to prevent someone from hurting him and I didn't”, confessed Tyre.
Tyre in September 2012, right after Kaiim was murdered and recently, with her 3 year old son Quinn.
For most of her 38 years, Tyre has lived in public housing. She was raising her boys Kaaim and Quinn in the Baisley Park Houses in Jamacia, Queens. But before she buried her oldest son - she vowed to move. "I'm leaving-- I refuse to raise another child in New York City Housing Authority, I refuse to raise another child in New York City.”
Six of the ten kids profiled for In Harms Way were residents of NYCHA buildings. Assistant Commissioner Kevin O'Connor who heads the police department’s Juvenile Justice Division said much of the violence around these complexes is caused by street crews. "The way the gangs have evolved over the last five years-- they've become these geographical turf battles. And it’s very easy to create a perimeter in a housing building,” said the veteran officer.
O'Connor estimates there are about 300 such gangs in the city and about one third of them are actively dangerous, accounting for much of the city's gun violence. "Kids can't walk a straight line to school anymore. They have to go around the block because they can't go through a certain street cause that's a rival group," O'Connor said. One such battle escalated for months over social media before Xavier Granville was shot outside a rival's apartment building in Far Rockaway, Queens. Threats that started on Facebook and YouTube culminated in the 17 year old's death. Part of what O'Connor's unit does is monitor these sites. "Everybody wants to be part of something and that's what most of these kids are looking for just to be part of something" O'Connor said he sees kids who never leave their neighborhoods. The suspects in these cases, like the victims were young too, no one arrested was over 25. Two of the teens in the series were shot and killed by police, fatally wounded by officers who said they were armed. Investigations in both cases are still pending.
"I got up this morning and was packing or finishing up packing,” said Tyre, who doesn't plan to be around to read another obituary. She's moving to Maryland.As she was going through Kaiim's things, she found a letter addressed to her, dated April 2004. He wrote "I thank you for caring for me; I would give up the universe for you to be happy."