Three days after the tragic shooting and death of 10-year-old Justin Wallace in Edgemere, residents placed flowers and balloons on a makeshift memorial outside of his home on Tuesday, June 8.
What was supposed to be a day of celebration is instead of a day of sadness and grief, as Wallace’s family is planning a funeral on his 11th birthday.
“As a mother, you would go all out for your child’s birthday and he’s not able to be here. Why? Because of someone deciding to do bad,” said Wanda McNeill, whose niece went to school with Wallace. “How can a child not reach their 11th birthday? Right now he would’ve been out with his friends or having a birthday party. These posters wouldn’t say rest in peace; it would instead say happy birthday.”
Wallace was shot in the torso outside of the home at 342 Beach 45th St. in Edgemere on June 5. He later died at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, amNY reported. His 29-year-old uncle is recovering from a bullet wound to his shoulder at Jamaica Hospital.
According to McNeill, there needs to be more policing in neighborhoods and the reinforcement of the “stop-and-frisk” policy to a certain extent, and not harassment.
Stop and frisk is an NYPD practice of temporarily detaining, questioning and at times searching civilians and suspects on the street for weapons and other contraband. During its height in 2011, the New York Civil Liberties Union found 685,000 people were stopped that year. Black and Latino New Yorkers were stopped at the highest rates.
“I’m sorry, we need that,” McNeill said. “It might be a different statement from some Black people and that’s fine, and I understand that, but it’s necessary. The police doesn’t need to be defunded; let them do their job.”
Tiffany Lee, who lives in the neighborhood, took a moment to say a prayer. A mother of three boys, Lee said she felt it in her heart to pay her respects to the family.
“I don’t know what it feels like to lose a child. Every time my 14-year-old goes out, I pray for him and tell him to come back in the house when the street lights come on,” said Lee, a mother of three boys. “When I grew up in East New York, Brooklyn, a lot of my friends were killed and it’s so close to me. We need some kind of protection over our children … there’s just so much going on.”
Although he doesn’t live in Far Rockaway, Minister Isaac Mickens, of Community Checkpoint Headquarters, traveled from Brooklyn to speak out against the senseless gun violence that has been occurring across the city and nation.
“We as Americans can stop these senseless crimes if we put something in place before these crimes happen,” Mickens said. “Everybody does a lot of talking, but no one is coming up with solutions. C’mon, this is America. We can stop these senseless crimes that are being carried out in communities.”
Mickens is advocating for bullet proof community checkpoints in neighborhoods that he says will prevent crimes and create jobs.
“People will be in the booth 24 hours a day. If a community checkpoint was on the corner block, the perpetrator would have never gotten out of the area, whether he was driving or walking. We wouldn’t be out here looking for him; he would’ve been caught.”
As the search continues for the gunman that shot and killed Wallace, Queens’ local elected officials and Mayor Bill de Blasio met with Wallace’s family on Sunday, June 6. According to de Blasio, more gun control laws are necessary.
“We need help from Washington, Albany, but it’s also going to take work from the NYPD and the community,” de Blasio said.
Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers, who represents Edgemere, took to Twitter to call for justice.
“As a mother, to look into the eyes of the parents and sister knowing their son would not be returning is just devastating,” Brooks-Powers said. “When did the value of life become so meaningless? Almost each week we are hearing of more and more gun violence and people succumbing to the injuries.”
“Bullets have no name once discharged. You can’t pull it back. This family will forever have this loss, not to mention the countless friends, classmates, teachers that loved Justin,” Brook-Powers added. “My continued thoughts and prayers are with the Douglas, Wallace and Challenge Prep families.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards on Tuesday tweeted a birthday message in remembrance of Wallace.
“Happy 11th birthday, Justin Wallace. You should still be here with your family, celebrating all your accomplishments, the incredible young man you had become and the bright future you had ahead of you. Your legacy will live on in #Queens, we’ll make sure of it. #JusticeForJustin,” Richards said.