ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Albany is up to 77 shooting incidents and 102 people hurt or killed by gun violence this year. Damion Tucker says Thursday’s early morning shooting took away his fourth friend — all lost to violence on 1st and Quail Streets.
“It felt absolutely horrible, because I know his mother, I know his father, so it’s like the story is the same. Another child is going to grow up with no father. Another mother is grieving. You know? The story is just so similar,” Tuckers says to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Albany Police Department PIO Steve Smith confirms the victim of Thursday morning’s shooting is 39-year-old Charlie Harris, of Albany. Tucker says he and Harris were always very close.
“I went to elementary school with him, junior high, and we got in trouble together in high school, so yeah it was a very close friend of mine,” Tucker says. “I felt compelled to come talk to you guys, because I just felt that I couldn’t sit there anymore and just watch this unfold right in front of me.”
Tucker and others across the Albany community say the city they once loved so much has become warped by violence.
“We used to have block parties, everyone would come outside, it’s just totally different. I’m from Jamaica, so coming up here when I was really young and I saw all the unity and everybody coming together, that was amazing to me. I still go there because I still have friends there, but it’s not the same. It’s scary and totally different,” Tucker says.
“This has been relatively a safe place to stay. It was so cute to see kids actually playing outside, but I just don’t know if people are going to feel safe to let their kids out,” says Larae Haywood.
Haywood lives in an apartment complex on South Pearl Street. She says Sunday around 6:30 p.m., a random shooting sprayed bullets across the entire section of apartments where she lives.
“I was sitting here on the couch, you know on my phone, and my little guy was sitting over there eating dinner,” she remembers.
She says when the bangs and crashes started to ring out around her, she and her 13-year-old son just froze.
“He looked at me and I was there looking at him, and then he tried to stand up. He could have been hit! I yelled to get back down to the floor, but by then four of the shots had already come through the house,” she says.
Haywood took NEWS10 on a tour of the damage to her apartment. We counted two bullet holes through the walls, one through a double pane window, and three through the front door.
“This door is not operable, you can’t open and close it,” she says while showing where another bullet severely dented the handle. “Technically, you’re supposed to have a back and front entrance for safety purposes. So this isn’t even safe for us to live here, because if there was a fire or somebody had to get in here, they can’t get in through that door.”
The solid metal door also showed severe damage where the bullets tore through.
“What was told to me earlier today, when I talked to the police on the phone, was that this type of caliber weapon, their bulletproof vest couldn’t have stopped it,” she says. “So I don’t know what they [the police] could’ve done. What could you do when people have these types of weapons?”
She says four days since the shooting and she and her kids have not felt safe enough to come home.
“My 13-year-old is having a really rough time with it. He really hasn’t eaten a meal since Monday. He’s also on the autism spectrum so he takes sleep aids, but even that, I know he hasn’t been sleeping either and he had to start school today,” Haywood says.
“This is a community where they had felt free and safe to play like normal kids do, and sometimes at night they’re out there roughhousing, playing tag, and whatnot. Can you imagine if one of our little ones had been outside when this happened?” she goes on to ask.
She says she reached out to Mayor Kathy Sheehan via email and received a response that her request to find new housing would be forwarded to Albany Housing Authority Executive Director Chiquita D’Arbeau. Haywood says she does understand the tough job city leaders have.
“It sounds like they’re doing everything they can to protect the community. I don’t know how anybody could fight against a high velocity weapon like that,” she says.
However at the time of our interview, she said she had not received any update on help from that office and did not qualify for help from the Red Cross or New York’s crime victims assistance program.
During our visit to South Pearl Street, Mayor Sheehan, D’Arbeau, and property management all arrived to assess damage. Sheehan’s representatives refused an on camera interview, citing community backlash claiming she lacked regular presence at crime scenes and with victims.
“I just feel like they’re just looking good for the camera, and they’re saying you know we are reassuring the community,” says Tucker. He claims many of his friends and former neighbors on 1st and Quail feel the same.
Mayor Sheehan’s office responded with the following statement:
Mayor Sheehan and Chief Hawkins have repeatedly been in the communities where these callous acts of violence are taking place and meeting with the residents impacted, including as recently as today. The Albany Police Department is working expeditiously to investigate these shootings and arrest the individuals responsible. Mayor Sheehan and Chief Hawkins take residents’ concerns very seriously and believe we need to aggressively prosecute violent offenders who fire a gun and place everyone in our community in danger, because that type of brazen act and depraved disregard for human life is something that is not acceptable in any community.David Galin, Chief of Staff to Mayor Kathy Sheehan
“To be honest, who are they really reassuring? The people where I go, they don’t feel reassured at all,” Tucker says.
Both he and Haywood say they still have unanswered questions.
“There was a shooting the other day, are they going to come back down here to retaliate? What’s gonna happen? Do you know what I’m saying? Nobody knows,” Haywood says.
“What’s your plan? That’s all I want to ask her [Sheehan]. Obviously whatever you have, it’s not working,” Tucker says.
Both also responded to public statements by Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins who has said the uptick in shootings is caused by groups of young men known to the police to be retaliating against each other.
“We can’t control their impulses. We can’t control what they do. To be honest with you, I don’t know who could control them. They have been asked by members of the community, the police, the mayor to stop and they won’t do it,” says Haywood. “I just think that the guns have to get off the streets. I don’t know what they could do, if they would have to go house to house and take people’s weapons, I don’t know. Call the National Guard or something!”
“My friend was not just some guy on the street, he wasn’t a drug dealer, nothing like that. I loved his sense of humor, he was always positive, and I loved that I could always look up to him and all the things he achieved, even though we were the same age. He was a good soul. He was just home taking care of his mother,” says Tucker.
“People in the community are just not working together. I don’t know why, if it’s a very stressful situation, I’m not sure, but this resorting to violence just has to stop,” he also adds.
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