Justice Feels Elusive for Parents of Brooklyn’s Youth Killed by Guns

Some parents dedicated to changing culture of violence
By Sarah Matheson
Sarah Matheson
Sarah Matheson
Sarah Matheson covers the business of luxury for Epoch Times. Sarah has worked for media organizations in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, and graduated with merit from the Aoraki Polytechnic School of Journalism in 2005. Sarah is almost fluent in Mandarin Chinese. Originally from New Zealand, she now lives next to the Highline in Manhattan's most up-and-coming neighborhood, West Chelsea.
August 29, 2013 Updated: August 29, 2013

NEW YORK—Some parents of children killed by youths in Brooklyn and the Bronx are still hoping for justice, years after the killings.

Althea O’Hara’s 14-year-old son Tyrek O’Hara Morris was shot in the head at close range in Crown Heights in June 2011. The killer, she said, was just 18 years old.

O’Hara said she had hoped to go to a trial, but the Kings District Attorney’s Office had told her that the murderer was already in prison, and would be there for life.

O’Hara was one of about 40 parents who attended a gun violence summit at St. Frances College, near Brooklyn Borough Hall, Tuesday, Aug. 27.

Chris Foye, a speaker at the summit, founded the Chris S. Owens Foundation, after his only son was killed in April 2009.

The shooting took place near 125th Street and 8th Avenue in Harlem at around 1:30 a.m.

A corrections officer and a 17-year-old boy were each shot in the leg, and Chris, who was just 13, was shot in the head. The weapon used was probably a handgun, and the suspect was never found.

Chris did not die straight away, and was put on life support. Eventually doctors sought Foye’s permission to turn the machines off.

“I had to make the hardest decision of my life,” Foye said. “That was my only child.”

Foye said he wasn’t ready to let go of his son. After starting the foundation, he became involved in Demand A Plan to End Gun Violence, a campaign calling on the nation’s leaders to do something to end gun violence.

He said there were over 2.4 million grass-roots supporters for the organization nationwide, and more than 900 mayors were involved.

Foye said his organization runs a youth empowerment program, to help children break free of the culture of violence.

“I think it’s my job as a man in the community to let the youth know that it’s not the way to go. … Through my experience I try to change lives,” he said.

The New York City Police Department is offering a $12,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest over Chris’s death.

Sharman Blackman’s son, a 24-year-old father of two toddlers, was executed in a car at Sunset Park three years ago. The case still hasn’t been solved.

“I took it real hard. He was my firstborn. I have three other kids, and they are still trying to deal with it,” she said.

Blackman said she has been in counseling since last year, provided by the District Attorney’s Office.

“I want there to be an arrest. I want them to go to jail and pay for what they did. They must not get away with it,” she said.

Kings District Attorney Charles Hynes said he “feels frustrated” about the unnecessary deaths of so many young people in Brooklyn.

“As long as I have breath left in my body I am going to find a way to get rid of gun violence,” he said.

Hynes said he supports a number of programs to help reduce violence in the community, including re-entry programs after persons are released from prisons, gun buy backs, and safe surrenders, where people with warrants out for their arrests for minor offenses can resolve their summonses.

City Council member Jumaane Williams spoke to some of the parents, saying he knows “that the hurt doesn’t go away, but I am amazed at the strength” shown by the families.

Sarah Matheson
Sarah Matheson
Sarah Matheson covers the business of luxury for Epoch Times. Sarah has worked for media organizations in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, and graduated with merit from the Aoraki Polytechnic School of Journalism in 2005. Sarah is almost fluent in Mandarin Chinese. Originally from New Zealand, she now lives next to the Highline in Manhattan's most up-and-coming neighborhood, West Chelsea.