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Williamsburg Has NYC's 2nd Deadliest Precinct as Homicides Jump

By Gwynne Hogan | June 5, 2017 5:13pm
 Byron Elder, 22, was killed in front of the Williamsburg Houses just after noon on April 28, police said.
Byron Elder, 22, was killed in front of the Williamsburg Houses just after noon on April 28, police said.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

EAST WILLIAMSBURG — Homicides in Williamsburg's 90th Precinct jumped in the first five months of the year — giving the neighborhood the second-highest murder rate across the entire city, police statistics show.

Through May 28, five men had been killed within the precinct's boundaries — with four of the victims shot to death and the fifth fatally pushed from a balcony, police said.

That number compares to just one murder as of May 28, 2016, NYPD statistics show. The tally so far this year has already exceeded the amount of homicides in all of 2016, when three people were murdered in the precinct. All of the killings have happened within a two-and-a-half- month span.

Citywide, the 90th Precinct's current homicide toll is second only to Brooklyn's 67th Precinct, where 10 people have been killed so far this year, according to NYPD statistics.

The Williamsburg precinct's current murder rate is also on pace to match its its highest since 2001, when there were 12 murders. Since then, there have been between two and seven murders each year, statistics show.

Four of the five deaths in the precinct so far this year were drug-related, and arrests have been made in three of the killings, an NYPD spokesman said.

“Everyone living in the community is just tired of going to funerals for the young kids,” said Lohoma Shipman, 48, president of the Bushwick Houses tenant association, who’s helping to organize a march in reaction to the increase on Saturday, June 17, beginning at the Williamsburg Houses and ending at the Bushwick Houses.

The increase seen in the 90th Precinct bucks the trend of drops in homicides and shootings across North Brooklyn and citywide, statistics show.

North Brooklyn precincts saw a 19 percent overall decrease in murders, while precincts citywide experienced a 17 percent drop in homicides, according to the most recent statistics available.

Three of the Williamsburg killings, as well as a recent spike in gun violence, have occurred place around public housing developments in East Williamsburg, including the Bushwick Houses, the Hylan Houses, the Borinquen Plaza Houses and the Williamsburg Houses.

Shipmen and other tenant association presidents from nearby developments met with NYPD Chief of Housing Police James Secreto following the most recent murder in the area — the May 24 killing of Cordell Pittman, a Borinquen Houses resident who was shot in front of the Bushwick Houses — explained a staffer for City Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who helped facilitate the meeting. 

Sharline West, 41, a resident of the Bushwick Houses still reeling from the death of her son Byron Elder, 22, an aspiring rapper who was killed outside the Williamsburg Houses on May 2, said she wasn't surprised when another young man was killed near her doorstep a few weeks later.

“Every time the sun comes up, every time it’s nice outside, that’s when you hear gunshots. You can’t sit outside with your family," she said.

“The police, they always stay for a couple of weeks, probably two weeks after somebody gets murdered, and then they gone. You need to see more police in the projects all the time. Not just because of killing, but because of protection.”

The surge in shootings and deaths coincides with a rollout of the Community Policing program in the 90th Precinct, which began this February.

Police denied a request to interview the 90th Precinct Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector William Gardner.

These are the men who've been killed so far this year in Williamsburg's 90th Precinct.

On March 19, Bronx resident Jefferson Exantus, 22, was shot in the head inside a Flushing Avenue club. No arrests had been made in his death as of Monday, police confirmed.

► On April 10, Miguel Santiago, 53, was shoved from the balcony on the 15th floor of a Williamsburg building over a dispute, plunging to his death, police said. Police and prosecutors charged John Morales, 27, who is being held at Rikers Island without bail, for the killing. However, his attorney Earl Ward said that Santiago jumped from the balcony and his client wasn't involved in the man's death.

"There is absolutely no one who can say they saw [John] push this man off the balcony; that did not happen" Ward said. "John Morales did not kill Miguel. I think the evidence will demonstrate that in trial."

Morales is due back in court on July 20. 

► A day later, on April 11, 28-year-old Tiquan Hamilton was shot inside Martinez Park in the Williamsburg Houses. While police said witness silence initially thwarted the investigation, authorities have since arrested two men in connection with his death.

Marquis Oldman, 20, was charged with murder and weapons charges, and he is being held without bail on Rikers Island, records show. His attorney Robert Reuland declined to comment for this story.

Another man, 25-year-old Jonathan Scott, was charged with hindering prosecution after attorneys said an unnamed witness saw him take the murder weapon from Oldman and later hide it in a box inside his closet.

"It's a weak case against him. There's no physical evidence... They're not claiming that they found the gun in his posession," said Scott's attorney Michael Letwin.

"He looks forward to his day in court and I'm hopeful things will work out for him," added the lawyer, who said his client is being held on $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash. 

Both men are due back in court on July 28.

► On April 28, Byron Elder, 22, was shot in broad daylight in front of the Williamsburg Houses, sending elderly residents who'd been enjoying the warm afternoon ducking for cover. Police arrested David Green, 33, several days after the killing, authorities said.

Green's defense attorney couldn't immediately be reached for comment Monday. He is currently being held without bail and is due back in court on July 28. 

► On May 24, Cordell Pittman, 29, a resident of the Borinquen Houses with an extensive rap sheet, was shot and killed outside of the Bushwick Houses on Moore Street. 

No one had been arrested for the shooting as of Monday, police said.