Candles and a poster are placed at a vigil at Haffen Park for 14-year-old Kemar Brooks who was murdered in the park last Thursday evening. (Photo: Corinne Lestch)
Keble Frazer took his sons, niece and nephew to Haffen Park in Baychester on Tuesday expecting a pleasant, relaxing day.
Then he saw posters at the entrance offering a $12,000 reward for information on the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Kemar Brooks there, according to the New York Daily News.
“I’m just looking at the signs, and I’m shocked,” said Frazer, 35. “I’m wondering if I should take my kids here. The park is somewhere you’re supposed to be safe.”
In a wave of street violence this summer, park crime is up 24% since 2009, said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates. Since July 1, 13 people have been shot in parks citywide, resulting in four deaths and nine injuries; two people were stabbed, one fatally.
“There’s an explosion of park crime this summer, and there are only two park enforcement officers available for patrol for the entire borough,” said Croft. “And that’s for over 7,000 acres of park land.
“When (Kemar) was shot, there was nobody.”
The senseless shooting took the life of a promising student and tennis player last Thursday. His father, Cassell Brooks, found the boy lifeless in Haffen Park, less than a block away from their home. A vigil was held in the park Monday night for Kemar, who was active in his church, Gospel Assembly.
Kemar’s father was thankful for the outpouring of support - more than 200 people showed up.
“I’m coping, but the memories just linger,” Brooks said on Tuesday.
“Replacing this son...it’s just hard to imagine. This son was a good gift from God. One that God only gives once in a lifetime.”
As for the park, “I think I’m going to stay away,” he said.
Neighbors, residents and parkgoers said they were spooked coming to the expansive green haven, which boasts a pool, tennis court, playground and sprinklers. Five days after the shooting, mothers were drying off small children in bathing suits while residents exercised with personal trainers. The lights turn off at 10 p.m., but there is no way to close or gate the perimeters.
“There’s nobody here to actually prevent anyone from coming in here,” said a longtime tennis player, who declined to give his name. “I think that’s asking for too much. This is New York City.”
Investigators are no closer to figuring out who killed Kemar.
A witness saw a man enter the park about 8 p.m. Thursday and fire in the direction of the pool, then leave the park, said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, the NYPD’s top spokesman.
Kemar was under a gazebo near the pool, taking cover from the rain, with a man he had been playing tennis with and another man.
It's not clear whether any of the three was a target of the shooting, Browne said.
New York Daily News - August 1, 2012 - By Corinne Lestch
A Walk In The Park - July 27, 2012 - By Geoffrey Croft