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Assemblyman's shooting brings attention to violence in Brownsville

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 8/23/2011, 2:19 p.m.

Assemblyman William Boyland and his son were left unharmed after a stray bullet hit his car last Wednesday in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The incident has again put the neighborhood under the microscope with a cry for help to the city when it comes to combating gun violence.

According to reports, Boyland and his 7-year-old son were on their way home from the barbershop at around 6 p.m., when gunshots rang out as he was driving through the intersection of Sutter and Saratoga avenues. Bullets came flying through the rear window of his SUV, and police found a bullet lodged in the front seat of the vehicle.

"The first shot everybody sort of ducked, and the second shot blew out the back window, the third shot got into the car, hit the belt buckle on the passenger side," said Boyland in a television interview.

Neighbors said they heard three gunshots. The NYPD has reported, after an investigation, that Boyland was not the intended target. One suspect was brought in for questioning about the shooting but no arrest has been made.

However, questions about whether or not the bullets were meant for the four-term assemblyman lingered, considering several controversies that surround Boyland, including the recent revelation that he was absent for 20 of the 60 recent legislative sessions. He was also highly criticized for waving and honking when driving by a vigil for a 13-year-old in Brownsville, and earlier this year he was charged in a federal corruption case.

But while the focus seems to be on the assemblyman, the shooting is evidence of a bigger, ongoing problem in Brownsville that has yet to be solved. Residents of the neighborhood say the shooting is just one example of what goes on in the area on a regular basis. They say they are in need of the city's help to find a solution to the problem.

Community activist and leader of Man Up Inc. A.T. Mitchell said that, while it's unfortunate that Boyland was shot at, he hopes the shooting will bring attention to Brownsville's needs.

"There is a need for us as a city to deal with it head on and not sweep it under the rug," he said. "Not just adding more cops on the streets. It's a combination of police and community working together to make the neighborhood a safer place. We have to invest in other alternative means, like economics and job creation."