Stop the violence and the madness

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 4:40 p.m.

Another shooting, another teen life lost. The story is starting to become all too familiar across the city while community leaders take charge in an effort to stop the violence.

Tragedy recently hit in Southeast Queens when members of the Crips and Bloods were allegedly shooting at each other earlier this month that resulted in the death of a bystander. The shooting occurred in Cambria Heights on Linden Boulevard. Kevin Miller, 13, was shot in the head and killed. A 17-year-old male survived a gunshot wound to the thigh. Reports indicate that a fight broke out a block away in front of Campus Magnet Humanities and the Arts High School. Miller and the other victim were caught in the crossfire.

Police have arrested 16-year-old Nnonso Ekwegbalu and 18-year-old Gregory Calas in connection with the shooting and charged them with second-degree murder and assault. Both could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Funeral services for Miller were held last Friday, where friends and family members attended and voiced their outrage over his death while he was simply walking home from school.

Miller's mother, Donna, said that after two weeks since her son's death, she is doing better. She told the AmNews that Kevin's untimely death was a wakeup call to her. She described her son as a good person who went to church and had a good foundation.

"Right now, I'm at a loss for words at what happened to my son," she said. "I'm glad two people are now in custody and I hope they get the maximum sentence for the crime they committed."

Donna added that she went to the arraignment for 16-year-old Ekwegbalu. She said that now she is willing to donate her time to fight against crime in the community.

She said, "It's unfortunate that this is a wakeup call for me to get involved and do something."

Senseless violence appears to be common in Southeast Queens. Ronald Merrit, who lives in the area, is a member of the anti-violence organization Life Camp Inc., and said Miller's death is an all-too-familiar situation.

"Everyone thinks that the street life is the way to go," he said. "Some people try to live their lives like a movie. No one is thinking about goals. Everyone is thinking about right now. Queens is starting to become an East Coast Compton."

Merrit added that teenagers are starting to use even more aggressive weaponry in order to settle battles between each other. He cites seeing some with what he called "choppers" or tommy guns. He also blames rappers for glorifying a violent lifestyle.

Graham Weatherspoon of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance said Miller's death is unfortunate, but it won't be the last time. He blames a lack of parenting as a reason for the rise in violence among youth.

"There was a total disregard for human life," Weatherspoon said. "We have a lot young men with no fathers. Over 60 percent of Black children are being raised without a man in the home. A lot of these young men don't have a positive influence."