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Grief and gratitude: Brooklyn Homes residents respond to mass shooting after action reports

Thursday night provided an opportunity for Brooklyn Homes residents to learn and speak on a series of after-action reports released by Baltimore City last week.

“This guy, he came to my aid,” said Anthony Wicks, gesturing to Mark Mason, a Victim’s Services director at the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE). “He talked me through a lot of things.”

Wicks was one of the 28 people shot at the Brooklyn Day block party. He was also one of many residents who responded with gratitude, grief and a bit of skepticism during Thursday’s meeting.

The after-action report is compiled of a series of reports from the Baltimore Police Department, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC), MONSE and the Office of Emergency Management. In those, each agency detailed what they did or didn’t do in the events leading up to or after the shooting that killed Aaliyah Gonzalez, 18, and Kylis Fagbemi, 20, in the early hours of July 2nd at the annual Brooklyn Day block party.

BPD, HABC and MONSE all presented their reports on Thursday to the residents who were gathered in the Baybrook Elementary/ Middle School cafeteria. Mayor Brandon Scott told residents it would be the first step forward in making a “community compact” with the residents of Brooklyn Homes.

“The focus will be on the actions of city government and agencies represented here tonight, and rightly so,” said Scott. “But I want you to know that we have never stopped pursuing justice for you, Aaliyah, Kylis, and the 28 others injured in Brooklyn.”

Wicks was one of a handful of residents who shared gratitude, especially for the mental health therapy he received in the aftermath. His daughter is scared to be at home; therapy is helping both of them move through things.

“She asked me, ‘Daddy, what you got a boo boo, you got shot?’ That kind of hurt me. That kind of took me for a loop,” he recalled.

His gratitude was also tempered with anger, especially towards the Baltimore Police Department.

“It’s a slap in the face. A lot of the stuff that they said they did know or didn’t know, there’s no excuse.”

BPD submitted a nearly 100 page after action report that detailed many ways in which police chose not to deploy more resources to the Brooklyn Day shooting. Those details were shared out by acting Police Commissioner Richard Worley.

Three days before the shooting one officer monitoring social media saw a post about Brooklyn Day, but it then disappeared. There is no evidence that more efforts were made to learn about the event and there was no officer monitoring social media on Saturday July 1st, the day community organizers held the block party. The party was scheduled to start at 5pm and last through “whenever.”

Worley also noted that all three shifts for the day were staffed and that leadership in the Southern District did not ask for more resources as calls for services came into the department. Crowds grew throughout the night to reportedly between 800-1000 people and additional officers were never sent — an action Worley has repeatedly called “unacceptable.”

The report pointed out a pattern of “officer indifference” and a breakdown between the police officers and the communities they serve. Rather than building community relationships, the report said officers relied too much on social media and other official channels.

That lack of community relationship is also becoming evident in the investigation into the shooting. Before Thursday’s meeting, Worley told reporters that the investigatory leads are not coming from community reports.

“I don't know if it's a case of ‘stop snitching’. I can tell you we don't have any eyewitnesses and we haven't had really anybody come forward and point out any suspects that pulled a trigger,” he said. “We’re using mainly all data and all cameras, ballistics to put things together.”

There is now a new commander in the Southern District and Worley shared last week that the disciplinary process is now underway for some officers. He also assured residents that he is encouraging, and will continue to encourage, officers to get out of their cars and patrol by foot.

For some residents, like David Jones of Curtis Bay, those sentiments and promises at reform ring hollow.

“I just kind of feel it's the same old regurgitated thing from every administration, when something like this happens,” he said.

One woman who spoke but did not identify herself, said a sentiment that has become very familiar in the two months since the shooting.

“It shouldn’t take a mass shooting for all the help we’re getting now, it’s not right.”

Residents, like Wicks and others who spoke on Thursday, want those resources to keep coming and not to trickle out. He said the community needs leadership and accountability, not just from city leaders but from each other too.

“We need more peace, we need more love… we need more interacting with our kids. Period.”

Emily is a general assignment news reporter for WYPR.
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