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‘A stare or a look’ led to Brownsville mass shooting, top NYPD brass says

August 6, 2019 Noah Goldberg
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Two unsolved mass shootings in north Brooklyn over just nine days proved to be anomalies in an area that has otherwise seen a drop in crime in the last month — with crime trending downward after a shaky start to 2019, top police officials said Tuesday.

The Brownsville mass shooting at the Old Timers Day festival, which killed one and injured 11, and Monday’s Crown Heights shooting, which injured four people at a candlelight vigil, both remained unsolved Tuesday with no arrests, though police offered new details in both cases at a monthly crime briefing.

“This violence [in Brownsville] was the continuation of a dispute that occurred prior to that night. One of the individuals, at least one of the individuals that was shot, was involved with … two groups. We recovered two firearms. Both of them are attributable to 15 shots being fired,” said William Aubry, NYPD chief of citywide investigations, about the Brownsville shooting.

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Aubry did not provide details on the dispute between the two groups, but said something “as foolish as a stare or a look” led to the gunfire between the two groups at Old Timers Day. He said detectives on the case have reviewed hundreds of hours of video in the case and are trying to figure out exactly who fired shots that night.

The shooting, which caused pandemonium among party-goers at Brownsville’s annual Old Timers Day festival, had potentially the most victims of any New York City shooting since 2013, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. Despite that, NYPD Chief of Department Terrence Monahan said Monday that Brooklyn had a “tremendous month” besides a few “really bad incidents.”

Shootings in Brooklyn North — which encompasses numerous police precincts, including Brownsville and Crown Heights — dropped 43 percent compared to last year, with just 17 shootings in July as opposed to 30 last year. Gang-related shootings were down from 22 last July to just eight in July 2019.

Police taped off the playground where one or more shooters shot twelve people — killing one — at a n annual block party in Brownsville. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg
Police taped off the playground where one or more shooters shot twelve people — killing one — at a n annual block party in Brownsville. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg

The second recovered gun was an update in the Brownsville case. Police found one handgun on the scene the night of the shooting. They did not disclose where or when the second was found.

Aubry said one of the two guns recovered from the Brownsville shooting was linked to a July 14 shooting in Brooklyn in which a man showed up at Brookdale Hospital with a gunshot wound. He did not give the location of the shooting, saying it was sensitive information linked to the current investigation into the Brownsville shooting.

“One of those firearms links back to a prior shooting in July. And another one of those firearms, we call it a community firearm, which means that there’s a gang that shared that firearm and used it that night,” Aubry said.

Despite the number of victims in the shooting, Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to call the Brownsville tragedy a mass shooting for four days before changing course.

“The shooting out in Brownsville, they were handguns,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, when asked how New York City’s shootings compared to other mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, over the weekend, in which shooters used high-powered rifles.

Police look for evidence at the scene of a shooting that injured four on Buffalo Avenue and Sterling Place early Aug. 5. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg

In the Crown Heights shooting Monday that left four people wounded at a candlelight vigil on Buffalo Avenue for a man who had recently died, police are looking to identify six people who were crossing the street near the vigil and shot 18 times into the crowd, aiming for three men across from them.

The three intended targets were not attending the vigil but were walking by when the shooters opened fire, police said. The shooters hit one of their targets, a man, but not the other two. The three others injured were attending the vigil.

Police released video Tuesday of the six persons of interest running from the scene after the shooting in Crown Heights.

“Based on what we know it definitely falls into the framework of another mass shooting,” said Brian Cunningham, the deputy director of Save Our Streets Brooklyn, an anti-gun violence organization. “For us who do this work full time it’s very traumatizing and we try to respond best way we can,” he said.

The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as an incident in which at least 4 people are shot, excluding the shooter.

S.O.S Crown Heights will hold a rally on Wednesday condemning the shooting.

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