Justice for D’aja

A Rosedale man was convicted this week of murdering a 14-year-old girl who was riding home on a bus in South Jamaica after a Sweet Sixteen party in 2013. The senseless shooting sent a shudder through the city, shocked by the random nature of the attack.

Crime rates were steadily declining and New Yorkers no longer had the knee-jerk reaction that murder was business as usual and could not be reversed. The image of an innocent teenager dying from gunfire on a city bus appalled many residents of Queens.

Adding to the public outrage, she was the fourth member of an extended family in southeast Queens to die from gun violence.

A Queens jury found Kevin McClinton, 24, guilty of second-degree murder in the death of D’aja Robinson, who was on the Q6 in Jamaica when multiple rounds were fired at the bus on May 18, 2013. One bullet struck her in the head in a barrage prosecutors believed was aimed at another passenger.

An only child, D’aja was a student at Cambria Heights Magnet School and one of seven homicide victims in the 113th Precinct that year.

Less than three weeks later, McClinton was arrested in South Carolina and held without bail until conviction. A second suspect, 15 at the time, still awaits trial.

How does a community cope when children kill children? Days after D’aja was killed the 113th Precinct Community Council put a $22,000 bounty on the suspects. Then Borough President Helen Marshall earmarked $50,000 from her office to hold a gun buyback in honor of the teen.

In 2014 on what would have been D’aja’s 16th birthday, her family, friends and neighbors held a walk on a rainy Tuesday. D’aja’s grandmother led the somber marchers to the site where the shooting cut short a young life. The 113th Precinct joined the vigil.

It took nearly three years for D’aja’s family to get some sense of relief from the criminal justice system. But murder claims more than just the victims—it leaves other wounds that never heal.

Less than a year after D’aja died, her 17-year-old cousin Khalil Bowlin was killed in a drive-by shooting in South Jamaica in 2014. His mother said he never recovered from D’aja’s murder. Bowlin’s uncle, a former NYPD officer, died in a shooting in South Jamaica in 2011, while his father was gunned down in a Richmond Hill barber shop in 2010.

McClinton is facing 25 years to life when he is sentenced in June. D’aja’s family is facing a lifetime without the loved ones who shaped their lives, but at least a guilty verdict has brought some solace to the survivors haunted by bloodshed.

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