Tyreke Borel (top) and Tiarah Poyau (217976)
Credit: Contributed

“J’Ouvert must stay,” declared Brooklyn Assemblyman Charles Barron, who walked the entire Eastern Parkway West Indian American Day Carnival Monday. “We cannot succumb to the actions of a small criminal element or police containment.”

Even though 3,400 NYPD officers were assigned by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to the annual festivities, two people were fatally shot at this weekend’s J’Overt festival.

Four people were shot during the pre-dawn annual event, but the two fatalities were Tiarah Poyau, 22, and Tyreke Borel, 17.

Although a certain vocal element immediately seized upon the opportunity to assail the usually peaceful Caribbean event and demand that it should be no more, others are calling for perspective.

“Obviously, the neighborhood is changing,” said one Barbadian-American. “Now gentrification is taking hold and the new demographic wants to control what is around, and it is almost clichéd that they would make this demand.” 

Monday de Blasio hinted that he might consider canceling J’Ouvert. “All options are on the table,” he said. “But we’re going to look at the whole situation with the NYPD and the community.” But Tuesday he said that with decades of good standing, cancellation was no longer an option.

Although the Parkway was packed with bright floats, loud music and flag-waving, dancing participants who represented their Caribbean nations with pride and enthusiasm, there was a subdued element as people reflected on the two young people slain in crossfire. Tiarah Poyau was shot in her head above her eye just after 4 a.m., at Empire Boulevard. The St. John’s University student was taken to Kings County Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Tuesday afternoon Regenald Moise, 20, was charged with second-degree murder, criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment.

Just before 4 a.m., EMS and the police got a call that a male had been shot in the vicinity of Empire Boulevard and Flatbush Avenue. Boys and Girls High School student Tyreke Borel sustained a gunshot wound to the chest and was pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital. There were no arrests at AmNews press time. The police department stated that the investigation is ongoing.

Caught in that crossfire also was Margaret Peters, a 72-year-old grandmother shot in the arm and a 20-year-old male shot in the leg.

The shootings came in the wake of the stray-bullet death last year of Carey Gabay, former aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo. He was slain as J’Ouvert celebrations took place in the neighborhood. Suspects have been charged in his death. Monday Cuomo awarded five SUNY scholarships in his name.

Monday at a news conference de Blasio stated, “Every year, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people come out to participate in this celebration of Caribbean culture. Typically, at J’Ouvert almost a quarter of a million people, including last night at the parade—often over a million people. The vast, vast majority celebrate peacefully. They represent their culture proudly. And it’s a moment where every year, people look forward to celebrating their heritage as all New Yorkers do for their own heritages. And we are very clear about honoring and uplifting that celebration of heritage. But at the same time, our hearts are heavy today. We never accept violence in our midst. Last night, there was violence that is fundamentally unacceptable that we will continue to address more forcefully. Last night, a very few people violated that spirit of pride and celebration and caused pain for so many others.”

 Police Commissioner Bill Bratton introduced Brooklyn South commander, Assistant Chief Steven Powers, who said, “Last year, there were 1,700 officers assigned to this parade and the festivities associated with J’Ouvert. … This year, we’re well over 3,400 officers. So we doubled the size of the detail. We set up 45 cameras along the route of the parade and other trouble spots that we had in prior years. We deployed over 250 light towers to try to give some semblance of light in our most troubled areas based on the history of violence associated with this event. We utilized violence interrupters to try to talk to the gangs. We had clergy members talk to the gangs. We used social media to try to reach out. J’Ouvert International got the message out through their people. We organized a gun buyback in the 6-7 Precinct which collected 59 guns just last Saturday. And we did a gang takedown Friday—this past Friday, leading up to the event. So we did a lot of measures that we would hope would have a positive influence on this event.”

Bratton noted, “Unfortunately, there are still criminals in our midst—not only at this event, but in the city, in this country. And in this city, we have been able to reduce serious violence, as I think you all are very familiar, by a [inaudible] percent over the years—murders, robberies, rapes—and we continue to try and reduce them even further. Similarly, in this event, as the borough president’s referenced, we will work very hard, and I’m very confident as we did with the murder of Mr. Gabay last year, we will find those who committed those murders today. But we cannot basically account for the behavior of every person in this city. Unfortunately, there are still criminals who, despite society and our best effort to control their behavior, insist on breaking the law and in this case, committing murder. We will, with the tools of justice available to us seek to bring [inaudible] to justice. 

Powers noted that in 10 years, “going from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. … we had 21 events involving shootings or homicides …” He added, “We’re at 21 instances in the past 10 years. Last year, it was the same. We had two people killed last year—one stabbing, one shooting. This year, same thing—two people killed; the same number of shootings last year as this year. So, just to put it a little bit of perspective.”

“We should also continue a very real discussion about gun violence as a whole,” City Council Member Jumaane Williams. “The type of violence that takes place during J’Ouvert should be inclusive of the epidemic that plagues our communities year round. An honest discussion is owed to those who are dealing with this chronic type of violence.”

“My condolences go out the families who lost loved ones to this senseless violence during J’Ouvert,” Barron told the AmNews. “These killers must be brought to justice. J’Ouvert must continue! We cannot surrender cultural activities in the streets to violent criminals and police containment. The police doubled their presence and had lights and cameras all over the place, and two people still lost their lives. At the root of this criminal behavior is abject poverty, and skyrocketing unemployment that breed hopelessness. When is the governor with his over $150 billion budget and the mayor with his over $80 Billion budget going to take poverty seriously? We need a multibillion dollar antipoverty program to attack this issue of violence. Let’s not forget the original gangs of New York were white. These white gangs consisted of new immigrants of Irish, Italian, Jewish, Polish backgrounds and the originals thieves of New York, the English and Dutch. They participated in murder, brutality and robbery and the way their crime was brought down was by giving them economic opportunities to climb the social ladder. Do the same for our people! Until then my message to our people is no matter how poor you are or how unemployed you are, that’s no justification for taking someone else’s life. However, we must never let this system off the hook because there is a correlation or perhaps causation between poverty and violent behavior. Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio, let’s get real and finally address poverty. Ending J’Ouvert will not end crime. J’Ouvert must continue.”