2008-03-28 / Front Page

Homicides To Top Ten-Year High

By Howard Schwach

Police sources fret that Rockaway is heading back to the bad old days when the peninsula saw doubledigit homicide rates and drug-related shootings were a weekly event.

"Shootings have picked up this year," Captain Brian McMahon, the Commanding Officer of the 101 Precinct in Far Rockaway, said recently. "Homicides are up, shootings are up, and we're way up in gun [arrests]."

McMahon is not overstating the problem, one that statistically is striking the other Rockaway precinct, the 100 Precinct, as well.

In 1998, there were nine homicides in Rockaway, all of them within the confines of the 101 Precinct.

That number shrunk each year since then. In 2007, there were five homicides in Rockaway, four in the 101 Precinct and one in the 100 Precinct.

This year, however, with nine months to go, there have already been four in the 101 Precinct and two in the 100 Precinct, although those statistics are skewed, police sources say, by the fact that at least three of the victims were most likely killed elsewhere and their bodies were dumped in the Rockaway precincts.

The homicide rate in the 101 rose last week with the reclassification of a death that took place on January 14.

That morning, the body of Rajas Binda was found under the stairwell at the Beach 44 Street A Train line.

His death was classified last week as a homicide and the cause of his death as "blunt impact to the head with brain injury," according to a spokesperson for the Chief Medical Examiner's Office.

The first homicide of the year occurred on January 5, when Nevelle Ward was shot and killed at the Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway.

Binda's death has now been declared the second Rockaway homicide of 2008.

On February 9, a bullet-riddled, partially decomposed body was found in an empty lot on Beach Channel Drive at Beach 54 Street.

That body remains unidentified, and investigators believe that it was dumped in the empty Rockaway lot.

The next two bodies were found together in a burning luxury Porsche SUV on Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel on March 14.

The two men were identified by police sources this week as Siaka Kone, a Manhattan businessman from the Ivory Coast, and Ella Eugene, of Stamford, Connecticut.

Police say that the two men were beaten to death, wrapped in a tarp and placed in the trunk. The SUV was then driven to a deserted area near the Wildlife Sanctuary and set on fire.

The final murder victim to date was Jemontt Williams, who was shot in the head on Beach 59 Street in Ocean Village on March 19.

Williams had been arrested many times in the past, police say, and a drug involvement is suspected.

Should the spate of homicides continue, Rockaway might well see in excess of 20 this year, a number that was last topped in the 1970's and 80's, experts say.

The upward trend is not restricted to Rockaway. The number of homicides in the entire city has been climbing this year for the first time in many years.

"Last year, we took more than 100 guns off the street, an all-time record for the precinct," McMahon said. "At this point in the year, we had confiscated 14 guns. This year, we've already taken 20."

"We're on a good pace to match or better last year's weapons take," the commanding officer added. "Which is a bad thing," pointing out that more guns might well equal more shootings and more homicides.

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