Mount Vernon – Two shootings on the South Side of Mount Vernon just 12 hours apart, has residents questioning the new 21st Century Policing Initiative the MVPD and Thomas Administration recently unveiled. The first shooting happened approximately around 11:30 P.M. Friday night on South Second Avenue where Wilbert Francis (24) known as Junior, was shot thirteen times and died and DPW employee Kareem Williams known as Premo was injured. The second shooting, shots were fired into the Rev. Shelton E. Doles Community Center, 7th Avenue entrance (across the street from 4th Street Playground) during the end of the Mount Vernon My Brother’s Keeper Summit, shortly after Noon on Saturday.
“The recent shooting of a young man in Mt. Vernon echoes the need for a comprehensive plan from City Hall and the Mt. Vernon Police Department to address the influx of guns and crime and violence.” Blacks In Law Enforcement of America’s NY Rep Damon K. Jones said in a statement. “Our organization has consistently worked with Mothers of Victims of crime and violence, especially in the city of Mt. Vernon. I was personally with the mother of the young man shot 13 times last night. The ordeal of a mother losing her son to circumstances beyond her control is heartbreaking. What I have also noticed, there is clearly a disconnect between the objectives of the Mt. Vernon Police Department and the perception of those who are victims and their families when it comes to keeping people safe.”
On Saturday Afternoon, an hour or so after the South Seventh Avenue shooting (which was a half block away from my home), I visited the family of Wilbert Francis along with Jones, Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Mitchell and Rev. Jeffrey Wheeler. To see the grief of a black mother, mourning the senseless murder of her child less than two hours after hearing the Police Commissioner breaking down the 21st Century Policing policy the MVPD is implementing made things very real for this editor.
Black Westchester covers many cases of Black Lives Lost throughout the country at the hands of Law Enforcement and other black males and the first shooting taking place about five or six blocks from where I live on a street I walk down often on the side of a supermarket I shop at often and then a second shooting happening 12 hours later a half block from where I live with shots ricocheting in a building I was in minutes earlier for the MVMBK Summit made it very real to me. This wasn’t a story I was covering across the nation or in another city but on streets I walk down and bullets came through the door I use to exit the Dole Center. But as real as that made it, nothing prepared me for when I entered the family’s home. Nothing prepared me for the array of emotions I felt seeing a another black mother mourn the senseless murder of her son.
Another black male life is taken from the community, a father of a three-year-old daughter who will never see her grown up, teach her to drive, watch her graduate, warn her of the dangers or dating etc. Another mother left to bury her child. A mother who was a strong community spokesperson against the senseless violence of illegal guns plaguing our streets. A mother who has stood with countless other mother’s when their child was a victim of senseless gun violence. I was left wondering will the community she stood up for, stand up for her now and she needs them they way they needed her.
With a police department without leadership, after the firing of Public Safety Commissioner Robert Kelly, and Deputy Police Commissioner Ronald Fatigate filling in as Acting Police Commissioner while the search takes place to find a permanent replacement for Kelly. The examples set in City Hall for the youth with all the Adult Gang Banging going on in the current City Hall Civil War. You don’t think they youth see this? This is the example being set for them as our elected officials appear to be going to war, taking each other to court and locking each other out of city hall and having press conference after press conference that on the outside it doesn’t matter who is right at this point, there is enough blame to go around on both sides.
As Rev. Wheeler had the family, friends and supporters of this black mother join together, hold hands and cover her in prayer as she weeps endlessly about what can not possibly make sense to her. How is she now sitting in the seat, that countless others she comforted and stood with sat. The fight against gun violence and illegal guns on the streets of Mount Vernon just got real for her on a whole other level. Now she is the one seeking answers and asking why me?
“I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family and it’s time we as a people and a city come together as one and stop the senseless killings of our brothers in the streets of Mt Vernon,” Rev. Wheeler tells BW Sunday afternoon.
The grief of this black mother makes the need for a comprehensive plan from City Hall and the Mt. Vernon Police Department to address the influx of guns and crime and violence, more than a rally cry, slogan or campaign promises. Less than three weeks to the day (July 3, 2015) of the senseless shooting in front of the Richard Thomas for Mayor South 4th Avenue Campaign office (two blocks away from the senseless death of Wilbert Francis) he vowed to make public safety his top priority.
“We are gathered here today, to declare independence from gun violence, drugs, a down economy and in my personal view the root cause to this problem is the mismanagement of our city…” Councilman Thomas said his Forth of July press conference. While Mayor Thomas who won the election and has only been in office for Five Months and Twelve Days his words eleven and a half months ago ring very true here and now after these two shootings which are part of a rash of shootings including an Easter Sunday driveby.
While it is not fair to throw him under the bus and solely blame him 100% for the rash of shootings, his words “…in my personal view is the root cause to this problem is the mismanagement of our city…” accurately describe what we are facing. The Civil War in City Hall and lack of steady leadership at the top of the MVPD, he has to take most of the weight for because like Davis, Clinton and Blackwood before him, he is the Chief Executive Officer of the City of Mount Vernon.
This is not about playing the blame game, this is a call for all of the elected officials to put aside their differences and come together for the betterment of the city. Yes as the Mayor, the buck stops with you, you are the leader of the city, and while it is up to you to rally the troops as we have often spoken about the last two years, it’s up to all our elected officials and community leaders to put their differences aside. There is a war going on outside, nobody is safe from and we all need to do our part so we do not have anymore grieving mothers crying for the lost of their children in the City of Mount Vernon. As the mecca for Black People we set the bar, we are the most watched, the most scrutinized and its time for us as a city to stand together no matter what race, creed or color, what religious denominations, what economic tax bracket, we must stand together. The whole community especially all of my brothers and sisters of color, its time to take back our community.
Rev Wheeler understands that as he offers spiritual guidance and comfort to someone who is not a big tither, a woman who is not even a member of his church, but a mother in need. He is calling on all the men to stand up and stand together and pray together for our city.
“I will be hosting a call for all men of our city to early morning prayer this Friday, June 17 from 6:00 A.M. – 6:30 A.M. at Mt Calvary CME Church, 38 So 2nd Ave,” Rev Wheeler announces to BW. “We as men will be praying for our families, our city and our nation.”
I write this editorial with the image of tears running down the face of a grieving black mother in the age of 21st Century Policing. We have to do better, but first we the people, the residents, the taxpayers must demand better. Time for sitting on the sidelines because it hasn’t hit you directly are over. This could be your son, whose last words to you was he was going to pick up his daughter. REAL TALK!