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In Harm's Way: Remembering New York City's Kids Killed by Gunfire

Monday, November 25, 2013

WNYC

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."

Editors:

Karen Frillmann

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Comments [7]

Joanne Theodorou from Manhattan

Thank you Ms. Horan. The NYTimes also ran a story on Shaaliver this past long, hot summer of senseless violence. He was a student of mine some 4 years ago. This is the third child I had as a teacher in the Bronx that is now lost to needless violence. I an numbed... can't even cry anymore.

Nov. 27 2013 01:05 AM
Kathleen from NYC

Hi, Shaaliver was profiled for the series http://www.wnyc.org/story/311947-harms-way-remembering-life-shaaliver-douse/
and mentioned in this last story, if you take a listen to the audio version.
Thanks, Kathleen Horan

Nov. 26 2013 01:52 PM
Joanne from NYC

You neglected mentioning Shallivar Douse, a 14 year old shot dead in the South Bronx this summer by the NYPD. Sallivar was toting a gun and chasing after another child, so it became necessary for the police to shoot him,,,kill or be killed. So yet another tragedy and the flip side of this ugly coin. This is life on the streets for these kids. Shallivar is also a victim of this street/gun mentality...a 14 year old with a gun, WHY???? Again, it's kill or be killed,,, or perhaps a gang initiation. It's all too upsetting. Cannot blame these mothers for leaving NYC, the streets have become ridiculous, no one knows who the good guys are anymore.

Nov. 25 2013 10:40 PM
Fred from NYC

This is a very moving story which I heard on WNYC this morning. I was surprised that no mention was made of the interaction between the horrible gun deaths of these children and the issue of stop and frisk, which WNYC has given so much publicity to, especially during the mayoral race earlier this month. Given WNYC's focus, I would have thought they would illuminate for the audience whether the benefits of stop and frisk on getting guns out of the hands of these gang members and/or discouraging them from carrying guns or other weapons would provide an offset for the complaints from the same community that suffers the negative impact of those actions in both categories. The interview of the mother who is moving to Baltimore for a fresh start with her remaining children would have had so much more depth if she had been asked about her views on stop and frisk, given her terrible loss of a son. I had hoped for more thought and nuance on these issues and their possible link given the publicity that WNYC gives to both separately, but not together.

Nov. 25 2013 12:36 PM

Very sad but of course, very unbalanced. Yes, brown and black kids are more likely to be victims of crime. They are also more likely to be perpetrators of crime. You can't just look at the victims. The entire culture of victims/victimizers must be viewed and seen as the problem.

It is obnoxious to listen to one more story about brown/black victims with no depth of reporting on who killed them, why did they kill them, what is "sick" about these cultures beyond white privilege, poverty, etc.

The woman we heard today spoke about leaving the projects as though that is a valid choice. Well, if it is a valid choice, why stay? I thought projects were for those without choice. Not to belittle the loss that she suffered. It is horrible and she didn't "deserve" it for being there. No one does. But why stay if you can leave? Obviously, its not simply about poverty and no choice but possibly being able to live a life of some entitlement without obligation. That is PART of the problem that WNYC will NEVER touch or investigate.

Nov. 25 2013 08:31 AM
Zen

A very tragic loss and no parent should have to go through this. It would be great however if these childrens deaths caused black culture to reflect and see what is going terribly wrong within that community. There is a cultural problem today with youth of every race, but particularly among black youth. Time to stop the needless deaths and start looking in the mirror. I hope these tragedies could at least be honored by bringing forth change.

Nov. 25 2013 08:27 AM

My Heart Just Breaks
Praying For Their Friends And Families

Nov. 25 2013 07:15 AM

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