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Rage in Harlem

Herb Boyd | 4/12/2011, 5:28 p.m.
Without the consolation of tears and in a quivering voice, Myrna Soto, the grandmother of...
Rage in Harlem

Without the consolation of tears and in a quivering voice, Myrna Soto, the grandmother of a young man slain in Harlem over the weekend, said, "I wish this had never happened."

But her grandson, Luis Soto, 21, was dead, his body riddled with five or six bullets, the fatal one through his heart probably fired by a police officer. "I didn't want to lose this grandson," Soto said during a town hall meeting Tuesday evening at the National Action Network. "It's sad. It's real sad."

If Soto's rage was muted, the hundreds jamming the House of Justice were not, and the Rev. Al Sharpton had called the meeting not to point fingers and blame anyone, "but for people to talk and discuss how we can come to terms with violence."

Such violence was occurring right up the street from the meeting, as it was reported that a young boy had been shot. At first, he was reportedly dead but it was later corrected to say he would survive.

Soto didn't survive, and amidst an ongoing investigation, it is still a bit murky as to what really happened early Sunday morning near Colonel Charles Young Playground at Lenox Avenue (Malcolm X Boulevard) and 144th Street.

According to the latest police report, Soto was in a fight with Angel Alvarez, 23, over a young lady when a gun materialized. It is still not clear whose gun it was, but the police account said Alvarez had it and pointed it at officers arriving at the scene.

Two shots were fired from the fracas between Alvarez and Soto, the police say, which precipitated a barrage of 46 shots. When the shooting was over, Soto lay dead, with Alvarez wounded by 21 bullets and two officers and three bystanders shot.

Anthony Miranda, chairman of the National Latino Officers Association and a speaker at the meeting, said the officers failed to use the necessary precautions and properly evaluate "who was the victim and who was the perpetrator. And 50 shots, that's excessive."

What many citizens learned four years ago from the tragic shooting of Sean Bell, a victim in a fatal flurry of 50 bullets, was that according to police procedure, an officer is supposed to, after three shots, evaluate the scene then determine if more force is necessary.

That clearly was not exercised in this most recent incident. That and other points were raised by outraged participants at the meeting, including Ade Williams, who expressed a strong concern about the "culture of snitching" among the current generation. He called for the end of such behavior but was aware that to call the police often exacerbates a bad situation.

"We must police our own community," was a comment offered by more than one spectator--something Tamika Mallory, executive director of NAN, had stressed during her opening remarks.

The dais was overflowing with noted community leaders and elected officials. Assemblyman Keith Wright picked up on the theme that "it's up to us, we have to do it ourselves," he said of ending the violence. "One of the hardest jobs we have as parents is turning boys into men."