On an unseasonably hot Tuesday afternoon on West 144th Street and Lenox Avenue, several organizations, including Harlem Mothers SAVE (Stop Another Violent End) and CASH (Civic Association Serving Harlem), marched with local politicians and the family and friends of Christopher Owens from the Colonel Charles Young Playground to Harlem Hospital. Council Speaker Christine Quinn belted through a bullhorn, “Those people who say don’t snitch, it is not snitching! It’s saving a life!”
Not too far from her, one man using the jungle gym at the Young Playground as a workout facility said, “Snitching? You can’t do that in the hood!”
This past weekend saw temperatures reach as much as 90 degrees, but a tragic incident could prove a bad harbinger to things to come this summer.
At 1:30 a.m. last Sunday morning, 13-year-old Christopher Owens took a single bullet to the head when gun-shots brought a block party (with over 300 people) to a halt. His body lay motionless on the sidewalk close to West 121st Street and Lenox. Two other men were shot in the leg and both were in stable condition. As of press time, Owens an eighth grade student at the Action for Community
Empowerment School on West 124th Street, hadn’t regained consciousness and was on life support.
“I just want to let everybody know that the people who did this should turn themselves in,” said Owens’ father, Chris Foye, outside of St. Luke’s Hospital, surrounded by family and friends in tears. “Look at the destruction you brought to many lives that are connected to my son’s life.
“My son was a good kid,” said Foye.
Council Member Inez Dickens collaborated with Cong. Charlie Rangel and Gov. David Paterson’s offices to make certain that Owens,
who had no medical insurance, received the proper services from St. Luke’s. The help stemmed from Paterson contacting Dickens personally expressing concern for Owens’ situation. Dickens said she spoke to Owens’ family and St. Luke administrators to assure the best healthcare for Owens.
“Every time there’s a shooting, it hurts our heart,” said Jackie Rowe-Adams, cofounder of Harlem Mothers SAVE. “What is so bad is, our young kids don’t even get a chance to enjoy their life.” “When the sun comes, the gun comes,” said activist Kevin McCall while standing across the street from St. Luke’s Hospital early Monday evening, where Owens finds himself on life support.
“Somebody knows something,” said McCall, the executive director of Brooklyn East New York Crisis Team. There’s a reason why the incident last weekend raised fears among Harlem residents and lent some credence to “when the sun comes, the gun comes.” Last Memorial Day, gunshots ended a barbecue at Marcus Garvey Park, implanting bullets in six victims, some as young as 13 years old (the same age as Owens).
Separate incidents of gunfire transpired at West 130 Street and Lenox, West 131st Street and Eighth Avenue, and West 142nd Street and Eighth Avenue. The night ended with 10 people wounded and resumed the never-ending cries of Harlem residents for the authorities to get illegal guns off the street.
“Last summer, Memorial Day weekend. Shooting. Children shot,” said Quinn in a matter-of-fact tone. “Labor Day weekend. Shooting. Children shot. We began and ended the summer last year in Harlem with our young people being shot.” She concluded, “We’re here today in April to say we are not going to have another summer of gun violence here in Harlem or anywhere else in New York City.”
But if we are to believe the New York Police Department, we should not see any up-tick in violence at all. According to the NYPD, crime in the first quarter of this year was at its lowest rate in over 40 years. Commissioner Ray Kelly said that crime dropped 13.5 percent overall from last year and was down in every major category, including homicide. Meanwhile, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer had some words for those in charge who turn a blind eye to illegal guns. “As long as the powers that be close their eyes at kids getting guns, we’ll be back here all too often,” he said.