By Tandy Lau
This past week in New York City was an alarmingly violent one, especially for Black and brown youngsters. On Saturday, 17-year-old Nyheem Wright was fatally stabbed in Coney Island. No arrests were made as of Jan. 24 and police are currently searching for six teens tied to the murder.
“This week our students repeatedly suffered from senseless acts of violence and tonight we mourn an utterly tragic loss of life,” said NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks in his statement about Wright. “I spoke with the young man’s principal this evening, who described him as a joyful leader. He was on the verge of graduation, and was a hard worker who took an active role in leading other young people at his school.
“Our city suffers because of these losses. We will support the students and schools impacted by violence this week as they grieve and work with all schools to help young people turn away from violence.”
DOE Chief of Safety and Prevention Partnerships Mark Rampersant added that weapons and other dangerous items are banned from schools and department programs are aimed at preventing youth violence.
“This past school year, we’ve rolled out a range of supports and interventions, including maintaining our commitment to ensuring every school has supports via social workers and guidance counselors; emphasizing Social-Emotional Learning for our youngest New Yorkers; and as part of our community collaboration work, introducing project pivot to provide critical interventions,” he said. “…we rely on our young people and the members of our school community, as well as our external partners, who do the essential work of telling a trusted adult when they see or hear something that could affect school safety.”
Wright was a student at Liberation Diploma Plus High School in Brooklyn, according to Councilmember Ari Kagan.
On Thursday, police found two Bronx teenagers with gunshot wounds—15-year-old Josue Lopez-Ortega was pronounced dead at the hospital and a 16-year-old boy is currently in stable condition, according to police. “ABC News” reported that the surviving teen was released from the hospital on Friday.
The elderly were not spared from deadly NYC violence this past week: 74-year-old Maria Hernandez was found dead on Wednesday in her Upper West Side apartment, bound and gagged. Lashawn Mackey, 47, was arrested and charged for her murder. He reportedly once worked as a super in the victim’s building. The NYPD is also looking for a second, “unidentified” suspect connected to the killing.
Even those who disrupt the violence were subject to it. A prayer vigil was held at Brookdale Hospital for Taronn Sloan, an NYC violence interrupter known by the community as “Tree,” who is recovering from a gunshot to the chest. He represents Brownsville In, Violence Out (BIVO), one of the city’s six official Cure Violence model sites in Brooklyn. Such programs are designed to prevent shootings through preventive measures such as working with at-risk youth and defusing potentially violent disagreements.
“This was random,” said New York City gun violence czar A.T. Mitchell. “From what we understand, he wasn’t [a] target. This was a random situation. And thankfully he survived it. But we want him to know that this community and his colleagues and comrades of the crisis management system and the gun violence awareness movement have his back and wish him a speedy recovery.”
At the vigil, Councilmember Charles Barron urged the public to look at prevention from disruptors like Sloan when engaging with news on violent crime.
“You know what’s not recorded?” said Barron. “When y’all have a shooting and you make sure there’s no retaliation. What’s not recorded is what y’all prevent when you go there and do some negotiation, mediation. That’s not on the news. That’s not in the statistics.”
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.