By Bianca Fortis
Laseam Hogan had already been signed by Def Jam Records and was on his way to a career in rap music when he was shot and killed, according to his mother, Andrea McGowan.
Hogan was murdered in October 2010 by Malcolm Thompson, a former friend of his family’s.
“Medication? Name it, I’m taking it,” McGowan said. “I can’t sleep at night because I’m still looking out the window to see if my son is coming home.”
McGowan shared her story at a community forum held last Thursday night at Humanities and the Arts Magnet High School in Cambria Heights.
It was the same school attended by Kevin Miller, a 13-year-old who was shot and killed as he was walking home during a gang shoot-out in 2009.
The event, which drew about 150 people, was held to address the “no-snitch” culture in southeast Queens in which witnesses of crimes do not come forward with information, often out of fear of retribution.
Thompson was convicted last June and is currently awaiting sentencing. He was convicted based on information provided by three reluctant witnesses who were subpoenaed to testify.
Terryl De Mendonca, the executive director of the Misunderstood Youth Development Center, who co-hosted the event along with the Queens DA office, said she often hears community members discussing problems instead of solutions.
“Can we say enough is enough?” she asked the audience. “Are you ready to reclaim your communities? Are you willing to speak up?”
She said gun violence has affected all the boroughs in the city, and she urged those in attendance to come forward if they witness a crime.
“If you don’t say anything, the next time it could be you,” she said.
Other parents who shared their stories are still asking witnesses to come forward.
Shenee Johnson spoke about her son, Kendrick Morrow, who was shot and killed at a party in Springfield Gardens in 2010. He was 17.
Johnson equated urging two of Morrow’s friends to speak about the incident to “pulling teeth.”
She said she spoke to one girl’s mother over the phone and begged for the girl to talk, but the mother said her daughter was scared.
“I’m like, ‘At least you have your daughter to talk to,’” Johnson said. “‘I’ll never see my son again.’”
The forum also featured a panel of experts available to answer questions about violence and the criminal justice process.
“Without them, there is no trial,” De Mendonca said about the panel, which included representatives from the New York Police Department and the Queens district attorney’s office. “Without them, there is no justice. We cannot bring to trial the people who are hurting our families.”
Audience members and the panelists discussed possible solutions to ending violence, including stricter gun laws and mental health programs.
Kevin O’Connor, the assistant commissioner of the NYPD Juvenile Justice Division, said one key to stopping violence is to discourage youth from ever wanting to pick up a gun.
“Tougher gun laws will not change anything,” O’Connor said. “Newtown, Conn., happened. We have a Newtown, Conn., every week in New York City.”
Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.