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.”
This past Saturday, hundreds of people, along with several SUV clubs, marched in the streets of Southeast Queens to voice their outrage against violence in the community. The protest was led by community activists Erica Ford and A.T. Mitchell of the organization Man Up!
The march began at the spot where Miller was shot on Linden Boulevard and ended at 113th Street and Farmers Boulevard at an abandoned building where a 24-hour center is to be built. The space will be called the Bury Da Beef Center.
“All of us have to come together as a community and as one village,” Ford said. “Each of us has to lay down a better foundation. “
Ford said the Bury Da Beef Center would be a place for conflict resolution as well as a place for youth to go to stay out of the streets.
She said, “It’ll be an emergency room and center for young people who don’t have a center. We are also going to train kids on how to make beats, trades and conflict resolution.”
Young people will also build the actual structure with the help of licensed carpenters.
Mitchell said he is on board with the idea and that the center would be good for the community on various levels. He would like to see more involvement from elected officials.
“People are definitely sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he said. “This continues to happen and people want results. Everybody can’t deal with this issue on a frontline level. It’s going to take some progressive support from elected officials.”
Work to make the Bury Da Beef Center a reality has already begun. Over $1,000 was raised on Saturday at the rally. Ford said Russell Simmons has gotten on board with the fundraiser, who reached out to rappers Nas and Swiss Beatz to get involved.
The organization Kings of Kings and Man Up! Inc. were both awarded $500,000 for the Kevin Miller Jr. Stop the Violence Fund that has been set up to raise money for the center. The money was given by the New York State Senate’s Operation SNUG and presented by State Sen. Malcolm Smith last Friday.
Donations can be made at www.burydabeef.com and at the Chase Bank branch located at Linden and Farmers boulevards in Queens.