Brownsville to mayor: Why isn’t 12 a mass shooting?

"It's sexier to call gun violence in Brownsville gang violence than it is to call it a mass shooting. But there were 12 people that were shot."

July 30, 2019 Noah Goldberg
Andre Mitchell (left) speaks at a march against gun violence July 29, 2019, just two days after two or more shooters left one dead and 11 others injured in a shooting at Brownsville's Old Timer's Day. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg
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A rapidly formed coalition of anti-gun violence advocates and local elected officials marched through Brownsville Monday evening in response to the Saturday block party shooting that left one man dead and 11 others injured. Frustrated that the mayor would not label the violent attack a mass shooting, some members of the group condemned the media portrayal of Brownsville’s shooting as “gang-related” while labeling the California Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting — which occurred just a day later — a mass shooting.

Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to use the term on Sunday, saying “that phrase is usually reserved for a different type of situation.”

The coalition — which includes assemblymembers, councilmembers, local groups, the public advocate, the borough president and others — is called the Brownsville Rapid Response Coalition and will address future acts of violence in the neighborhood. On Monday, the group and others gathered by the playground where the shooting took place.

Frank Williams sits in the playground where two or more gunmen opened fire at Old Timer's Day in Brownsville on July 27, 2019. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg
Frank Williams sits in the playground where two or more gunmen opened fire at Old Timer’s Day in Brownsville. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg

“We know that this was a mass shooting,” Assemblymember Latrice Walker, who represents the area, said on Monday. “I have never seen 12 people shot in Brownsville at one time.”

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Walker wrote a letter to the mayor on Tuesday asking him to label the event a mass shooting, saying that the designation would “trigger access to vital programs which would include emergency relief, crisis response efforts, training, and technical assistance for the benefit of the victims and communities affected by mass violence.”

State Sen. Roxanne Persaud also highlighted the difference between the responses to the California shooting and the Brownsville shooting.

“Everyone says, ‘Thoughts and prayers for the people of California. We are here with you,'” Persaud said. “When the shooting happens in Brownsville, what did people say? ‘That community is prone to violence.'”

“What took place on Saturday night was a mass shooting, and the media refuses to acknowledge it as a mass shooting,” said Brian Cunningham, executive director of anti-gun violence group Save Our Streets Brooklyn. “I think there are racial dynamics to that conversation. It’s sexier to call gun violence in Brownsville gang violence than it is to call it a mass shooting. But there were 12 people that were shot. I don’t know what the mayor’s motives are for his comments, but I know what I observed. In other communities where there are 12 people shot, they consider it a mass shooting.”

Saturday’s shooting took place at Old Timer’s Day, a massive annual block party with live music

Some members of the coalition said they could not speak to the mayor’s word choice.

“I can’t comment on what constitutes a mass shooting. All I know is that it’s important for us to stand against gun violence and support our community,” said Wesner Pierre, who runs Brownsville In, Violence Out, an anti-gun violence organization in Brownsville. Three members of the group were at the block party and were knocked to the ground by people fleeing the gunfire.

Unnamed police sources released the victim Jason Pagan’s criminal record Monday to the Daily News, saying he had been arrested 26 times and was out of prison on parole. The Daily News headline was “No Stranger to Guns,” while the New York Post called Pagan a Bloods gang member.

No arrests have been made in the shooting.

Police are investigating possible gang involvement because 50 percent of shootings in Brownsville are gang-related, Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said Sunday. While Brownsville’s 2018 violent-crime rate is nearly double the city average, crime has fallen dramatically in the past 30 years, as it has citywide. There were half as many killings in Brownsville’s 73rd Precinct in 2018 as there were in 2001, according to police statistics.

“I’m heartbroken. My child plays in that playground. I live right down the street and this is not the norm for Brownsville,” said Camara Jackson, executive director of Elite Learners, Inc., an anti-gun violence and youth-programming group in Brownsville. “Old Timer’s is an event that’s been going on for 56 years with little to no violence. The idea that it was a gang shooting has not been solidified yet. Not everything is a gang shooting and not everything is related to gang violence. It’s hurtful. It’s unfair.”

One councilmember talked about her own experience at the shooting, which happened during a massive block party, saying she hadn’t slept since Friday night.

“On Saturday, the last song we played was ‘Family Reunion,'” said Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel, who represents Crown Heights. She said community members were hugging and congratulating each other on another successful Old Timer’s Day. Others were sweeping up the streets. “We get to the middle of the block and we think we hear firecrackers and come to find out it’s gunshots.”

Ampry-Samuel said it’s not the first time she’s witnessed a shootout. “But it’s the first time I’ve been in a shootout right after Old Timer’s Day, with 12 people laying out on the ground,” she said. “I’m hurt. I’m traumatized.”

Michael Thomas, a former police officer, also said he thought it was firecrackers when the shots rang out. “We didn’t pay it that much mind or attention. Then we heard people screaming someone got shot and that’s when it became — I wouldn’t say a melee, because the cops really had it under control.” Thomas said he saw someone running who had been shot in the leg.

Passersby stopped to join the marchers.

“I don’t get how someone can be in a crowd like this and pull out a gun and just start shooting,” said Frank Williams, who was at Harlem’s rendition of the event when the shooting happened. Williams lives nearby and was biking when he saw the march happening and decided to join in.

There were 100 NYPD officers at the event before the shots broke out, according to Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill.

The shooting in Brownsville was potentially the worst New York City shooting since at least 2013, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It was also briefly the shooting with the most injuries in the country since the May 31 Virginia Beach shooting — until the California shooting took place on Sunday night.

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  1. LinaLina

    It’s ALL politics.
    Because it was a black on black shooting it goes against the mayor’s progressive worldview that all mass shootings are done by white neo-Nazi racist Republicans. That’s the media’s take on it across the country too! So practically nobody across the country has heard about the Brownsville mass shooting. When it comes to politics evidently Black folks lives really don’t matter. You can argue different points about Stop & Frisk. But in the end it saved many black lives by getting more guns off the streets of NYC. Black Lives Matter also caused intense hatred of law enforcement across the country. Even the mayor supported it. But in the end the only thing between us and flying criminal bullets IS the NYPD. But NOBODY wants to have that politically incorrect conversation. Until then the Brownsville Mass Shooting is nothing more than gang violence and the victims are not important because the just happened to be in the way. That’s racism at its worst. The sad unreported part is 500 people including the elderly and children joined together peacefully to have a fun and enjoyable celebration only to wind up as victims to illegal guns that seem to be everywhere in the poorest neighborhoods.

    • Lorenzo P. Adams

      Lina, WRONG. The corruption, police misconduct, and unaccountable MURDERS of unarmed black men AND WOMEN caused the mistrust and tension. NOT BLM. BLM and the COUNTLESS videos on social media EXPOSED a lot of these day to day interactions between law enforcement and the black community. You mention having a conversation. Yes, let’s have that politically incorrect conversation and get to the bottom of problem and cause. Let’s discuss the disproportiate arrest for things such as canibus in the black community compared to the arrest made in non-black communities where the drug is used just as much. Let’s discuss how the opiiod epidemic hit the black community hard in the late 70’s and 80’s, however wasn’t treated as a national health crisis. These people were criminals and didn’t deserve sympathy. These people need to be arrested (crime bill) and put away for years or the rest of their lives. Causing larger fractions in the black communities families. NOW fast forward the epidemic has hit non-black communities and now all of a sudden we have’s a health crisis, we need programs to address the issue. All of this is just the TIP of the iceberg…

      • LinaLina

        Lorenzo, of course I’m “WRONG”. Because I’m politically incorrect.
        I stand by my words. As long as BLM and the community at large goes along with murdering, cursing at, disrespecting and dumping buckets of water on the NYPD the gun numbers in our black neighborhoods will mushroom and black on black crime will rise. Who’s gonna get the guns off the streets… Black neighborhood vigilantes??? Rev. Al, Jesse, Obama & Elija???
        Stop & Frisk took guns off the streets, period. I saw it with my own eyes on an E train platform. A LOADED 9mm spun in my direction as 6 undercover cops grabbed the guy. I’ve had loaded guns pointed at me. In one case the same gun was used to murder a token booth clerk 1 week before his retirement and the NYPD detective who nabbed him nearly got his brains blown out.

        And as far as your various arguments.
        Weed is virtually legal. I know because there’s a construction site near me and dozens of construction workers are smoking en masse before they start the work day and during their breaks…sometimes right in front of the NYPD.
        Street urination and turnstile jumping is now practically legal.
        My block now stinks like a sewer!
        I’m all for Liberty & Freedom but where’s the limit???
        Drugs & incarceration in our community:
        (MAJOR PC ALERT!)
        Trump is the FIRST president to begin releasing non-violent drug prisoners by the THOUSANDS and help them rehabilitate to get housing and jobs with his First Step bill. He’s the ONLY president to bring up the opioid epidemic and link it to Mexico & China where the cheap junk is manufactured and shipped. He’s the ONLY president to come out in favor of rehabilitating the sadly addicted instead of victimizing these poor victims of drug lords and dealers.

        Sorry….But what has BLM done is those areas? NOTHING. They foment HATRED which is their only commodity. That hatred keeps us down in the plantation so THEY can rise up and cash in. We’ve been told time and again about “PROGRAMS”. But who’s taking in the cash and where are they spending it???!!! After over 50 years of welfare and “community programs” we have NOTHING to show for it. But our CORRUPT “Community leaders” and “Community Organizers” are living LARGE. Anyone come to mind???? They live in multi-million dollar mansions, sell books, make paid speeches, get TV & radio show contracts, get their kids into Harvard & Yale with free scholarships, and what do we get??? Murder, death, poverty, crime, hatred and despair to name but a few. But as long as they can divert out attention to the “white man” and victimhood, on the plantation we stay. And if THAT’S not RACIST nothing is.

    • Vincent Riggins

      An emotional response about stop and frisk that have been documented to have not stopped gun violence and only served to fast track our youth into the criminal justice system. And the prison system breed violence back into the streets. What young person are mentoring, teaching about life or politically advocating for? I’ll wait! The allusion is to think they can stop it by themselves the people must take a stand and no street code protection when they shot innocents, babies and the elderly.

      • LinaLina

        “Emotional Response” ?Laughable response. What’s that supposed to mean?
        Every response to an issue like this has emotion behind it.
        But it sounds like you have the the level headed emotion free solution re: guns & the NYPD murderers.
        Throw out the cops form Brownsville, replace them with a brave posse of black vigilantes headed by Rev. Al and clean up the gun mess. Get millions of dollars from the government to throw into programs Al and his buddies can control. Sounds like a great solution!
        Hope you’re on it because we damn sure need it here.

  2. LogicusPrime

    Brownsville to mayor: Why isn’t 12 a mass shooting?

    Probably because the term “mass shooting” originated as a description for a mass killing committed with a firearm. One dead doesn’t make a mass killing.

  3. LogicusPrime

    Brownsville to mayor: Why isn’t 12 a mass shooting?

    Probably because the term “mass shooting” originated as a description for a mass killing committed with a firearm. One dead doesn’t make a mass killing.

  4. John Miller

    They don’t put gang shootings in mass shootings because they cannot say whitey is extremely violent and commits the most mass shootings when they do. The numbers truly indicate it’s black American’s that commit the most mass shootings, not whites…