“Whose child is next?” asked an exasperated Mayor Eric Adams at Monday’s press conference for Kade Lewin. “The overwhelming number of the victims are Black and Brown. We can replace the name of Kade with so many other names. Promising young people snatched away from us.”
Back-to-back murders on these NYC streets are fraying the nerves of residents. The city which never sleeps is looking like a bad episode of a weekly crime drama. No sooner is one press conference over with a victim’s family asking for justice, than another one is arranged by other families, activists, the mayor’s office, and the police department.
The traditional media refrain of ‘If it bleeds, it leads,’ is wearing thin.
Just hours after the April 4th, Monday morning Flatbush press conference held by the family of murdered gunshot victim 12-year-old Kade Lewin, “mindless shootings” took the life of Juana Esperanza Soriano De-Perdomo, a 61-year-old innocent bystander on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. Then in the same afternoon there was a stabbing death of Qi Ruiin Weng, 58, in Queens. On Tuesday night, there were four more non-fatal shootings in the city.
New York City was shook last week after the Brooklyn shooting death of Kade Lewin, as he sat eating in a car with his aunt Jenna Ellis, and his 8-year-old niece, Kylie Thompson.
Grieving sisters Suzette Lewin and Jennifer Ellis graciously granted an exclusive interview with the Amsterdam News in their East Flatbush home.
VIDEO BY NABAYA ARINDE, AMSTERDAM NEWS EDITOR
“I could have lost three people in my family right there in the blitz of a minute. I heard it on the news so many times, but I didn’t know tragedy was going to be at my doorstep,” said Jennifer Ellis, mother of Jenna Ellis, who is currently in the hospital recovering from multiple gunshots sustained in the March 31 shooting. Saying that she is glad that Jenna is in recovery and “made it, but I am devastated that my nephew didn’t make it,” Ellis said of her 20-year-old daughter: “She’s coming on, but she is traumatized. She is blaming herself, and I’m trying to tell her not to blame herself, because you was just trying to be a good citizen like you always was, and going around taking care of her cousin. It is just so sad. Six bullet wounds.
“Three of the bullets went through, two were removed, and one is still in her face so it’s going to be a while. She’s still in pain. It will be removed at a later date because she had two major surgeries already so they can’t do too many surgeries back to back. I still need people to still be praying, and the community to reach out.”
“Who is next hah? Somebody is going to be next. But we don’t want it to be another Kade, we don’t want it to be another Jenna. It needs to be stopped,” Kade’s mom, Suzette Lewin, said. “We need them to come forward. I am numb. It’s not easy not sleeping, four nights since it happened.
“I want justice for Kade. If you see something, say something, because it is going to happen again, and we don’t know if it is going to be their family.”
“They don’t want their family to be next,” added Ellis. “And to the shooter, I know all these news reports, I know you know yourselves. If I don’t get justice in this world, trust me, you’re going to get it in the next because this is a praying mother, and your end is going to be worse than your beginning. You might as well come forth and give yourself in.”
On Thursday night, March 31, on East 56th Street and Linden Boulevard in East Flatbush as cousins Kade and Kylie sat with aunt Jenna, eating in their car, police say another car circled the block three times, and then let off bullets that hit Kade in the head, and Jenna six times. Kylie was uninjured.
A black Infiniti sedan and another car sped away from the scene after the gunfire. Police said it was probably a case of mistaken identity. No arrests had been made by press time.
Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said at the Monday morning press conference, “Your NYPD is doing what it can, and knows how to do well: to deter, and prevent, and apprehend those who are responsible, but we need your help. Kade’s mother needs your help. Jenna’s mother needs your help.”
Holding Kade’s white sneakers in the air, Adams told the assembled press that they could quite easily belong to Jordan, his son.
“Whose child is next?” A seemingly exasperated mayor demanded to know. “When you understand the realness of this, you understand the urgency, and so when I move with the urgency and people are telling me to slow down, what the hell is wrong with you?
“Whose child is next?…Too many guns on our streets. Too many people who are willing to use those guns to harm innocent people.
“It’s a painful moment,” he said, speaking on Jenna and her graduation picture “going to college, two jobs.” She had been looking after her young relatives in her car bought by her Mom, “Now she sits in a hospital bed blaming herself” when in fact it was the willful violence of someone else. The entire country should listen to the narrative of this family. Immigrants coming here to this country looking for a better way of life, not for someone to take their life…This is their block, their community.”
Moved by the palpable emotion, Adams turned and apologized to the grieving sisters and their surrounding family members. “We’re so sorry. Words cannot take away what you are going through. But you are representative of the best that this city, and country has to offer, and your children represented that.” Pausing intermittently, seemingly as he gathered his thoughts, Adams continued, “Six bullets in that baby girl. We are asking people to help us. I will personally contribute. We want contributions to go to lisadozierfuneralservice.com to raise money that’s needed.”
A tearful Suzette Lewin implored the community to help find the shooters who killed her boy. “I’m asking for justice for Kade,” she said. “All I’m asking, please come forward…please, please, somebody say something. I’m asking for justice for Kade. Please.”
“If you see something, say something,” the crowd chanted alongside Jennifer Ellis, as she grasped a photo of her beaming daughter Jenna, who is currently recovering from six gunshot wounds including some to her face and stomach. “Instead of coming out with the phone and recording and videoing, and taking pictures—call the police…we just don’t know who is next. We just don’t want there to be a next Kade. Please. Community leaders, community people, let us get together.”
Ellis implored, “I just want the neighborhoods to know that this violence, this gun action, it must be stopped…it is way too much of our people are being targeted and way too much innocent people are being killed. My nephew, he’s gone, never to return in this world…my daughter, laid up in the hospital blaming herself. Why should she blame herself?
“We just don’t want it to be a next Kade. We don’t want it to be another Jenna.”
Praising A. T. Mitchell and other crisis management teams who had helped this family thus far, Adams asked the press to respect the families’ privacy and took no questions.
Noting that a bullet went through his mother’s car door close to the Flatbush location last summer, a passionate Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said during the press conference, “I know we’re going to be here in another couple of days dealing with another family.” Williams, the former City Council member and current gubernatorial candidate, opined, “Usually when they talk about gun violence in this country they are talking about mass shootings, but the gun violence here looks like this family…Black people are dying by guns every single day…The trauma of Jenna doesn’t just go away, the trauma of the 8-year-old who was in the car, just doesn’t go away. That trauma begets trauma, begets trauma if it is not addressed in our community.”
Solutions? Williams said, “There has to be consequences and accountability. I want us to focus on preventing it happening in the first place. There are two budgets going up. One being negotiated in the state right now, one coming up in the city in June. Those budgets should be flush with more money than we can ask for, to address this violence in a very, very real, concrete way…because if it’s not—we’re all just talking rhetoric.
“Anybody with any power—federal, city, state—we should all be focused on this. This is a pandemic of gun violence that we have been dealing with in our community. Please.”
Last week’s Amsterdam News front page ‘Stop the Bloodshed’ article reported on the rally held in support of the recovering 3-year-old girl who was shot in the shoulder outside a day care center in Brownsville, Brooklyn; plus a Coney Island 7-year-old injured by a stray bullet; and the 11-month-old Bronx girl hit by a stray bullet in January.
Sitting in the family living room on East 59th Street, the Amsterdam News asked the Lewin/Ellis sisters about support coming from their family in Jamaica. Ellis said, “They are calling, and they are very supportive. People are praying from all over the world, that’s good support right there, but sometimes the volume of calls is overwhelming, it’s too much. It’s going to take time.”
Eight-year-old Kylie was uninjured, but is very traumatized, she said.
As for Jenna now, her mom noted, “She’s awake and she knows what happened. The first two days she was unresponsive, and I didn’t let her know, but she saw it on the news, and she’s blaming herself, and as I said don’t blame yourself, because those two children were her companions, and she takes them everywhere and does everything for them…but the real tragedy comes later when you’re not seeing Kade, you’re not seeing Jenna. Well, you see Jenna, you hear Jenna, but Jenna is not the same again. Jenna is not going to take you to the mall again. Jenna is not going to take you to the movies. Kade is not there anymore. It’s not the same.”
After meeting with President Joseph Biden in D.C. again this past weekend, speaking on CBS News “Face The Nation” on Sunday Mayor Adams told Margaret Brennan, “We talked about the flow of guns to our inner cities. A few days ago, I was in Chicago with Mayor Lightfoot, who took several thousands of guns off her streets last year. And here in New York, we’re doing the same…We have to stop the flow of guns, but we must also do the job of getting the guns off the streets that’s there now. And my anti-gun unit, they’re doing that.”
Critics point out that with Adams’ push to bring out a re-vamped, re-engaged, re-imagined street team under the anti-gun unit moniker, plus tough-leaning gun laws, gun crime is pushing up towards a 40% increase since 2020. Shootings in the city are up by 14% since last year.
The mayor berated the critics of what he called, “good, proper law enforcement with the proper proactive things to keep guns out of the hands of young people,” adding that the issue is: “We have a small number of gun dealers that are just skating the law. We’re dealing with a problem with ghost guns…we need to put money into the ATF so they can do the proper information sharing so we can identify the flow of guns in inner cities.”
In the meantime, Adams declared, “My officers are stepping up with quality-of-life issues and we are zeroing in on dangerous gangs and zeroing in on those who are trigger pullers and carrying guns.”
Recently the mayor has gotten some heat with his focus on going after dice games, turnstile jumpers, removing homeless encampments, etc. He continuously defends his policies, and did so on the Sunday talk show bringing up his: “history of fighting against heavy-handed and abusive policing. You can have the justice that we deserve with the safety we need. Here’s what we’re talking about when we say quality of life…jumping the turnstiles…open drug use, injecting yourself with heroin in our parks in front of our children. Loud noise, just being disorderly…you don’t have to use police to remove the encampments in our city like we’re doing. We’re doing a combination of social services, giving people the dignity they deserve. That is what we’re talking about, cleaning our streets and making sure that we don’t have a state of disorder.”
“Poverty creates crime,” said East New York Council Member Charles Barron. “Unemployment creates crime. Mental health issues. Drug addiction. And then we have to deal with the police.
“The best way to address crime is to eradicate poverty in the richest city in the world.”
Former Assembly and City Council Member Inez Barron said more resources to address poverty and youth disenfranchisement are what is needed, as well as the support of community organizations who have boots-on-the-ground. “We need increased funding for our crisis management teams,” she said. “They don’t have weapons, but they have heart, and a love for our community. They want to expand what they are doing. They work 8-hour shifts. But they want more support from the city, because these eruptions don’t happen within 8-hour periods. When they are adequately funded they are able to get the results that show they are successful.”