From the Editor's Desk
Commentary By Howard Schwach
Every story has to start someplace and, although this one could probably begin twenty years ago, or thirty, I'll begin it in March of 2003, when four Rockaway residents were arrested by Manhattan detectives for a Times Square melee in which eight people were shot and two others were stabbed.
At the time, police said that the battle was taken up by residents of two Rockaway housing complexes, Ocean Village and the Edgemere Houses (now called Ocean Bay Houses).
"This is a my project is tougher than your project kind of war," one police official said. "These guys have been beating up on each other since they were eight years old, and they're not going to stop now that they are older."
That battle in Manhattan might have been seminal, but it did not end the violence.
Un fact, to see just how right those police officers were, you have to follow the bouncing ball.
From March into June of 2003, there were eight shootings in Rockaway, most of them related to the Manhattan battle.
On May 31, 2003, Supreme Favor, 23, was shot at the Hammels Houses. Remember that name. It comes back repeatedly, as do the names of several of his brothers.
The next afternoon, Rodney Maisonette was walking his dog nearby Hammels when he too was shot.
On November 16, 2003, two men turned up at PHC with gunshot wounds. They said they were walking behind a building in the Edgemere Houses when they were shot. The two, Roberto Smalls (remember that family name) and Floyd Anthony Sanders, said that they were shot by a man dressed all in black. They were not very cooperative with detectives.
I asked you to remember two family names - Smalls and Favor. Those two names play a prominent role in the shootings that have dotted the peninsula for the past several years.
Jump ahead to September of 2005.
Kadeem Smalls, brother of Cedric and Andrew, known on the street as "Black" for the clothing he always wore, was shot and killed at Ocean Bay Houses. At the time he was shot, Smalls was the prime suspect in a shooting incident at Ocean Bay the week previous.
In that shooting, a teen by the name of Michael Pledger stumbled into the emergency room at PHC with a gunshot wound to his chest. The previous September, Pledger had scored 21 points for Beach Channel High School to lead the team to a playoff victory on the basketball court.
Pledger told cops that he didn't know who shot him, despite the fact that he knew Smalls very well.
He told police, "I don't know nuttin."
In May of 2006, two rookie housing cops were patrolling the Hammels Houses when they came upon four young men - one of them holding a silver handgun.
The four teens ran for the building, followed by the cops. They found Rodney Smalls holding the weapon. Smalls tried to get rid of it by throwing the clip down the stairs and handing the gun off to his brother, Andrew Smalls, 19. Smalls tried to throw the weapon off the roof. A third Smalls brother, Cedric was also present, but was not arrested.
In June of 2006, Michael Pledger was returned to New York from Georgia, arrested on a warrant for the shooting of Kadeem Smalls and Lamar Clarke nearly a year before. Smalls was shot in the head and died almost immediately. The shooting was five days after Pledger was shot by an "unknown assailant."
On June 10, 2006, Ronnie Smalls was found shot at the Hammel Houses with two gunshot wounds in his back. Smalls was uncooperative with detectives, telling them that he was shot from behind and had no idea who would want to shoot him.
In September of 2006, police pulled a massive drug sweep in Ocean Bay, Ocean Village and Beach 41 Street Houses. Nearly 100 people were arrested.
Among them were James Davis, Jessie Davis, Melinda Davis and Roosevelt Davis, all alleged members of the Crips.
On November 27, Christopher Glenn, 16, a Beach Channel High School student, was found lying face up with a gunshot wound to his neck and several shot to his torso in a lobby at the Ocean Bay Houses.
On December 15, Cedric Smalls was shot to death in front of his Hammel Houses building.
Smalls was reportedly the shooter in the drive-by shooting of Jerome Sandford on September 17.
On December 22, Laton Spurgeon, a 25-year-old neighbor of Glenn's, was shot and run over outside his brother's home at Fernside Place in Wavecrest.
At the time, Captain Brian McMahon, the CO of the 101 Precinct, said that the shootings "go back to two groups that do not get along" and that some of the incidents of violence go back to 2000.
Spurgeon's girlfriend was more succinct.
"I don't know the root of the problem, but it's been going on for years and it needs to stop."
In December, a man known to police as "Psycho," winged four shots at police officers patrolling the Hammel Houses. Police were looking for Psycho in connection with the shooting of Cedric Smalls.
In January, Assistant Chief Thomas Dale, the Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Queens South, which includes both of the Rockaway precincts, went on record with The Wave in a long interview in which he noted that Smalls and many of the others involved in the recent shootings were members of GIB - Get It In Bricks - an allusion to the bricks of cocaine that they regularly peddled in the projects.
He said that GIB was an offshoot of the Bloods gang, and was particularly notorious in Rockaway.
Dale added that many of the shootings were part of the battle for control of the drug trade in the Rockaway housing projects.
Spurgeon's murder, he speculated, was in retaliation for the murder of GIB member Cedric Smalls.
In late January, Andrew Smalls was arrested for his part in the murder of Spurgeon.
In early February, police pulled another massive drug sweep, this one at Hammels. Forty-two were arrested, including some thought to be connected to GIB.
Just last week, Justice Favor, a known GIB member, was arrested for the murder of Spurgeon. Court papers showed that he operated in tandem with Andrew Smalls, Basil Davis and Supreme Favor.
So, next time your read about a murder or a shooting in Rockaway, look for the last name of both the shooter and the victim.
It might well be another case of Rockaway's version of "All in the Family."