By Ivan Pereira
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told residents at the Redfern Houses Monday that an arrest had been made in the shooting of a 15-year-old girl that galvanized the community to urge the city to provide programs to curb the growing youth violence in the area.
Kelly, who was joined by State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and other elected officials, announced a new anti-crime initiative called “S.N.U.G.” that will be implemented across the state.
The commissioner revealed during a news conference at the reopening of the Far Rockaway project's community center that police had arrested a suspect in the murder of Brandon Bethea. The Jamaica teen, who used to live in the Redfern housing project, was shot in the head by a stray bullet on May 17 following a late night party at Redfern, police said.
Randy Washington, 19, of 22-04 Collier Ave., was apprehended June 14 and charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon in Brandon's murder, according to the Queens district attorney's office. Kelly would not elaborate as to the cause of the shooting, but said police are looking for a second suspect.
The arrest was announced as the commissioner, Brown and Smith gathered to celebrate the reopening of the community center. City budget cuts forced the multipurpose facility to close on May 2, but Smith was able to get it open by securing $80,000 in state funds.
“There have been a number of people who have made a commitment to these young people who unfortunately… have heard a gunshot [around here],” said Smith, who was joined by U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), state Assemblywoman Michelle Titus (D-Far Rockaway), state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach) and City Councilmen James Sanders (D-Laurelton) and John Liu (D-Flushing) .
Although the police made significant progress in apprehending Brandon's accused killer, southeast Queens leaders said more needed to be done to prevent the violence before it happens. Smith said S.N.U.G.” would complement the authorities's work.
The statewide program will consists of “Street” intervention through communication between police and residents; “National,” state and local funding; “Use” of celebrities, like LL Cool J and Slick Rick; and “Gainful” employment for the youth.
“Without support in our, community we can't accomplish that much,” Brown said.
The senator said he and his colleagues fought hard for the programs after they heard the concerns from residents at a May 22 community meeting at Redfern following the deaths of Brandon and Tyrese Johnson, 16, who was killed a few blocks away on May 20.
Doris Jacobs, the Redfern Houses Tenants Association president, said she was grateful the leaders acted quickly following that meeting.
“A lot of people say our elected officials don't do anything, but they do a lot behind closed doors,” she said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.