Jamaica Avenue in North Brooklyn is a picture of serenity. A row of houses lines the long, undulating street. Cherry trees are in full bloom in the front yard. Spring has definitely worked its charm in this part of the city.
A shooting in this spot last Sunday that left one 30-year-old man dead, however, has served as a grim reminder that all is not as serene as it seems. The shooting was part of an extraordinary spike in violence in the city. Between Friday and Sunday, 21 shootings left 23 people wounded and three dead, according to police.
At 200 Jamaica Avenue, a memorial on the sidewalk with flowers, candles and loving messages is the telltale sign of the mayhem that claimed the life of Steven McKoy. ‘God bless you always. We love you,’ reads one message. ‘I will love you 4 ever,’ says another.
McKoy was shot on Sunday at around 7:15 p.m., police said, when two gunmen ambushed him between Van Siclen Avenue and Miller Avenue. He suffered one shot to his stomach and one to his head, and was immediately rushed to Brookdale Hospital where he was declared dead, police said.
Jose Barghs, 21, who works at a food market near where McKoy was shot, was one of the first people to arrive at the scene. “I heard the shots and rushed out,” said Barghs. “Two guys were shooting at him from both sides and he was caught in the middle. He got shot in the head and fell back on the street.” Barghs and the owner of the restaurant next door immediately notified the police.
Gregory Garraputa, community affairs officer at the 75th Precinct, said that the rise in shootings were a cause for concern and necessary steps were being taken to address the problem. “We’ve increased patrols and deployed a lot more officers,” he said. “But, it’s a rough area.”
A NYPD patrol car with two officers was stationed across from the spot where McKoy was shot on Thursday afternoon.
When contacted for an update on the case, police said that no arrests were made and that the incident is still under investigation. The motive, too, remains unknown at this time. On Thursday afternoon, the police released a surveillance video that shows a man running with a gun. Officer Garraputa said that the tip line is open for people to call in with relevant information, but there was no reward for it.
Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS. The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
People in the neighborhood seem to think that the shooting was drug-related. Amid these speculations, the real reason of the shooting remains unknown, causing much grief to his family and friends. A friend of McKoy was offended when he found a reporter videotaping the memorial that the neighborhood residents had lovingly set up.
“That was my friend. I don’t want this shown on TV. He hasn’t even been buried yet,” he said angrily, as he arranged some of the messages that were blown away by the wind. As protection against rain, the residents had draped the memorial with black plastic.
Barghs, from the food market, said that the police had taken the surveillance footage from the store camera, but Officer Garraputa declined to comment on the subject.
Despite the shooting, people in the neighborhood seemed to be going about life as usual on Thursday. Barghs, who moved in to the area a year ago, said he was scared at first. “There was a lot of fighting and I didn’t know anybody,” he said. But now, he said he had grown used to it. “If you don’t do nothing to them, then they don’t do nothing to you,” he added.
Raul Alvariz, 34, who works at All Tires, a tire store at the street corner, said that he did not know about the shooting until Monday, as his shop was closed on Sunday. “I was surprised that something like this happened,” said Alvariz. “I’ve lived here only for eight months, so I don’t know how bad it gets.”
He is, however, thankful for the police presence. “Day and night, the police are here now. It’s much better than before,” he said. He also added that police presence had succeeded in disbanding boys who hang around in groups.
While the overall crime numbers for the 75th Precinct have dropped by 14 percent, the 75th Precinct has registered a 50 percent increase in shootings this year when compared to the same period last year.