2008-05-23 / Front Page

2 Dead, 5 Wounded: 3 Separate Shootings Leave Community Reeling

3 Separate Shootings Leave Community Reeling

2 Dead, 5 Wounded

Brandon Bethea in a recent family photo.

Sanders: 'Turn Them In. They're Killing Our Babies'

Police are searching for the shooter of a teenage Jamaica girl, who was dancing in front of a building in the Redfern Houses complex in Far Rockaway when she was shot to death on Saturday night as gunfire disrupted the impromptu party, police say.

 

Brandon Bethea, 15, was dancing with a group of teens in front of 12- 70 Redfern Avenue at about 11:12 p.m. on May 17 when the gunfire began.

Eyewitnesses say that the group scattered until some of the teens noticed that Bethea, who had returned to her former home to see her boyfriend, had dropped to the ground and was not moving.

Police responding to a "shots fired" call found one bullet hole in the girl's forehead.

She was transported to St. John's Episcopal Hospital, where she was declared dead on arrival, officials say.

Police said that the bullet was random and that it was fired from some distance away from where the teens were dancing.

Bethea's father, Robert Drakeford, and her mother, Tineen Harris, had moved her away from the public housing project last year, after the shooting death of her good friend Latina Bilbro, who had been gunned down at 13-40 Redfern Avenue.

Friends and family set up a memorial to the dead girl in front of 12-70 Redfern Avenue.
"I guess we should have moved further," a grieving Drakeford told a New York Times reporter. "We should have left New York altogether."

Drakeford urged the shooter to come forward.

"Whoever did this, turn yourself in," he said at a community vigil on Monday night. "We don't need any more bloodshed, any more violence."

Police sources speculated that the shooting was part of an ongoing dispute between the teenage residents of two of the buildings in the sprawling public housing complex.

That source said that the feud had been going on for so long that nobody even remembered how it started or what it was about.

"It's the buildings on Redfern [Avenue] against the buildings in the front [Beach Channel Drive]," one resident who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, told The Wave. "It's been going on for twenty years and too many kids have died because of it."

The NYPD's Sky Watch Tower was recently moved to the Redfern Houses.
Even though Bethea had moved, sources say that she continued to attend the nearby Brian Piccolo MS 53 school, where she was an eighth-grader and slated for graduation.

One of Bethea's teachers contacted The Wave to say that she was a good student, always willing to help teachers with special projects.

Family members told reporters that she was scheduled to attend John Adams High School in September.

"We were going to shop for a prom dress, and now we have to shop for a casket," Harris told reporters.

At a vigil held at the murder spot on Tuesday, City Councilman James Sanders, Jr., urged the community to come forward with the name of the shooter.

"Turn them in," Sanders said. "They are killing our babies and this must stop."

The NYPD had previously moved its Sky Watch Tower, a retractable 20 foot high tower with digital cameras, to the Redfern Houses. The tower, designed to deter violent crime, gives police a better view of what is going on in the surrounding area.

Captain Brian McMahon, the Commanding Officer of the 101 Precinct said that the department is throwing lots of resources into the area in an attempt to solve all of the recent shootings.

"Right now, the precinct's getting a lot of extra resources," he said. "Every [citywide] unit is pretty much coming into the precinct to try to help stem the tide and to catch the individuals responsible for these homicides."

Detectives from the 101 Precinct Squad and the Queens Homicide Squad are investigating, but sources said on Wednesday they had no suspects and no arrests had been made.

The city has offered a $10,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the shooter and Crimestoppers has offered an additional $2,000.

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