2008-01-11 / Editorial/Opinion

Why Was Smalls Still On Rockaway Streets?

The police-involved shooting of reputed gang-banger Ronnie Smalls on Beach 63 Street last Saturday night raises some questions. We know full well that, in recent years, he had a history of violence, from both ends of the gun. We know that he had a history of carrying a gun and using it. Our question is, why was Smalls still on the street after being arrested on July 1 for the June 29 shooting of 15-year-old Katrina Shinn, as she sat on a bench in front of 81-10 Rockaway Beach Boulevard in the Hammel Houses? Smalls was arrested on charges of attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon. You would think, given Smalls' background (see From The Editor's Desk), that he would have remained in jail pending his trial. The problem, we have learned from District Attorney Richard Brown's office, is that the Grand Jury hearing the attempted murder case voted a "No True Bill," effectively dismissing all of the charges against the gang member. Why did the Grand Jury refuse to indict Smalls? While the DA's office says that it can't discuss the Grand Jury findings because they are sealed by law, a source close to the case told us that none of the witnesses would identify Smalls as the man who pulled the trigger at the Hammel Houses that day. Our source added that the witnesses were afraid of retalization against themselves or their families if they fingered the GIB gang member. That is a typical problem in criminal cases today, the belief that a person should not 'snitch' on another, even for attempted murder. That belief is encouraged by rappers and gang members until it becomes something of a mantra. It seems clear that the justice system failed the community in this case. Smalls should not have been on Beach 63 Street on Saturday night, pointing a gun at a cop. He should have been in jail. And, while the justice system failed the community, that community has to take some of the blame. The belief that testifying against criminals is somehow wrong must be changed. Those who are victimized by gangsters and thugs must be willing to stand up and tell the truth, despite fear of retaliation or mistaken beliefs of right and wrong.

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