A man was fatally shot and 11 others were wounded in a shooting on Saturday night in Brownsville. The shooting happened at the end of the annual Old Timers Day event, when thousands of people had gathered at the Brownsville Recreation Center.
The shooting happened shortly before 11 p.m. At a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said there were more than 100 police officers present at the time the shots were fired.
"Last night there were 2,000 people, maybe a couple hundred people within the park," O'Neill said, in response to a question about the shooting happening in the presence of so many police officers. "Now how does that make me feel that something happened here? Listen, there’s always people that are looking to do New Yorkers harm or NYPD harm so you know, our response was quick."
Later, O'Neill added that the NYPD detail is one that's standard at large events. "As you know, this is something that the NYPD does each and every day, each and every weekend. There’s probably a captain in charge, lieutenants, sergeants and 100 police officers assigned to various areas within this venue."
The identity of the 38-year-old man who was killed is being withheld pending the notification of his family. Six other men and five women, with ages ranging from 21 to 55 years old, were also hit. One of the men is "fighting for his life right now," an assistant NYPD chief said at the press conference. Police officials said they believe there were at least two shooters, but that they were still investigating the motive. One gun was found at the scene.
"Everyone partying, hanging and then a bunch of kids came from Rockaway Avenue, down Hegeman Avenue, and then started shooting and then ran off,” witness Robert Marks told Bklyner. “The cops didn’t catch anyone—they were very unorganized—they didn’t know where to go or what to do. Old Timers Day is a celebration of people who got to retire and they come out to enjoy—this celebration happens every year, and nothing ever happens like this.”
The Old Timers festival is now in its 56th year. It brings current and former residents from Brownsville together to celebrate with dancing, food, and performances.
Mayor de Blasio declined to say whether he felt the incident was a mass shooting.
"I am only going to say that that phrase is usually reserved for a different type of situation than what I know this to be so far," de Blasio told reporters. "But let’s get the investigation to go forward and then we can define it."
Gun violence goes beyond mass shootings. We see it daily, across the country.
But when a mass shooting occurs, it has to be named. Brownsville deserves the same attention and resources as any other, including for trauma.
NYC saw a mass shooting Saturday. Let’s respond as such. https://t.co/dACkEirFhL
— Jumaane Williams (@JumaaneWilliams) July 29, 2019
According to stats released by the NYPD at the end of June, overall crime in New York City continues to decline, but year-to-date shootings were up 7 percent.
Update: Police say the victim, Jason Pagan, 38, was a member of the Bloods gang. On Monday, NYPD said several of the 11 other gun shot wound victims also had "gang histories." On Sunday police said they were looking for no fewer than two suspects, but on Monday wouldn't say how many suspects they were continuing to search for.
One of those hospitalized Sunday morning was Daniesa Murdaugh, 21, who had a shard of a bullet graze her back. She returned to the scene of the party Sunday afternoon to speak with reporters and described the shooting as pure chaos after gunfire erupted.
"We turned around to run I heard two shots before I was hit in my back, and then everything was a blur and everything was just moving fast after that stepping over people, people screaming, it was a lot going on at one time," Murdaugh said, through tears. "We gotta do better, what's keeping you that angry that you had to wait till you were around a crowd of people to start shooting," she said addressing the shooters.
Tanja Richardson, Murdaugh's aunt, was at the event and said she's organizing an Old Timers in Canarsie, Brooklyn for this weekend. "We're concerned this violence might trigger over to our event," she said. "I want to get organized with other organizations to see how can we resolve this and stop this so we can be able to attend events and be peaceful. It's imperative to me."
Commissioner O'Neill said Monday that he wouldn't commit to adding more security at future outdoor parties in Brooklyn, but would look at each party on a case-by-case situation.
Brownsville is in one of nine precincts the police said are experiencing double the number of violent incidents than the city average.
O'Neill said at community outreach meetings in these neighborhoods he hears there's not enough for young people to do. "Everybody in New York, not just the people in this residence, need to step up and help the communities that are plagued by violence, and it can be done," he said.
On Monday on the Brian Lehrer Show, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called for doubling the funding for anti-violence programs, saying increasing the number of police on the street won't be enough to reduce violence or to find out what's going on.
"You can't do it if you only have an apparatus of men and women who are wearing blue uniforms. You need the guys that are wearing blue jeans who can knock on the doors and people are willing to speak to them," Adams said.
Reporting by Stephen Nessen.