By Christina Santucci
Several elected officials were joined by parents whose children were killed or wounded by gunfire in honoring NYPD Chief of the Department Phillip Banks III and the Police Department following its arrest of a suspect in last month’s fatal shooting of a teenage girl on a South Jamaica bus.
In May, 14-year-old D’aja Robinson was killed as she sat on the Q6 at the corner of Sutphin and Rockaway boulevards, and 21-year-old Kevin McClinton was charged in her death, police said.
“We are back here today to express our gratitude to the Police Department and every member of the community who helped apprehend this [suspect] so justice can be brought,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Saturday. “Make no mistake, when something like this happens, the police are leading, but it is a community effort.”
Quinn was joined by Councilmen Leroy Comrie and Ruben Wills at the site of D’aja’s murder, and Wills had strong words of praise for Banks.
“In our communities, police and community relations have not always been the best, but his appointment has brought about a new perspective, a new day if you will,” Wills said. “He has been there at every single scene, not just here in southeast Queens but citywide. He has spoken to countless parents and dealt with our community-based organizations.”
A Queens resident and 27-year veteran of the department, Banks was promoted to his current role in the NYPD in April.
“We have seen shootings decrease and murders decrease, but those are just statistics,” he said. “Certainly one is too many and that is the bad thing about it. But the good thing about it is can be stopped.”
Banks said that if police and the community continued to build their relationship, violence would decline.
Before the news conference, the elected officials took a few minutes to speak with nearly a dozen parents of gun violence victims.
“I’m at a loss for words at this unnecessary violence going on in different neighborhoods,” said Robert Mazyck, whose 11-year-old daughter Tayloni was paralyzed after she was shot in Brooklyn. “She was standing in front of the building, waiting on her aunt to pick her up and a guy just randomly started shooting. She walked into the line of fire.”
Shanta Merritt, whose son Darryl Adams was killed last year, was invited by I Love My Life founder Erica Ford.
“I will never see my son again. With all of this going on, and I come to other people’s funerals or memorials or meetings, it just hurts even more for me. I’m just going to relive it forever,” she said.
In addition to I Love My Life, Fathers Alive In the Hood, Cure Violence, I Love My Life and the King of Kings Foundation were also on hand at the South Jamaica bus stop.
Banks said in the course of any investigation, leads are investigated, and one lead led the NYPD to South Carolina, where McClinton was apprehended.
“Hats off to the detectives who worked on this particular case,” he said, adding that other officers and many other people who assisted in the investigation also deserved praise.
Banks said with any murder investigation the NYPD puts a great deal of resources into closing the case, and a murder like that of D’aja Robinson affects the whole community.
“We feel it, too, when we suffer losses like that,” he said.