Two Brooklyn gang members in their 20s have been arrested on murder charges in a summer 2020 shooting that killed a 1-year-old boy who had been sitting in his stroller during a family cookout, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Dashawn Austin, 25, was arrested Wednesday on charges including murder and attempted murder in the shooting that killed little Davell Gardner and wounded four other people on July 12, 2020. It wasn’t clear whether Austin had an attorney who could comment on the charges against him.
“This is a powerful moment of justice,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a virtual news briefing Thursday, calling Davell's death “the most heartbreaking thing in the world.”
Austin was one of 18 suspected Hoolie street gang members charged in a 63-count indictment announced Thursday by the Brooklyn district attorney. Ranging in age from 19 to 33, they are accused of various crimes, including three other killings and eight non-fatal shootings dating back to 2018 that prosecutors say stemmed from clashes with a rival gang, the 900's — who police arrested 19 of their leaders earlier in the year. Eleven defendants were arrested Wednesday, six were in custody on other charges and one remains at large, prosecutors said.
Get Tri-state area news and weather forecasts to your inbox. Sign up for NBC New York newsletters.
"This gang targeted, sometimes killed, really for sport. In fact, at one point they may have even kept a score against the opposing gang," said NYPD Inspector Jason Scavino, of the Gun Violence Suppression Division.
The arrests are part of a 63-count indictment naming 18 total defendants as responsible for four homicides and eight non-deadly shootings in the city dating back to 2018 and including the shooting that claimed the life of Gardner, who was just two months shy of his second birthday.
Authorities had previously said two men walked up to a family gathering on Madison Street in Bed-Stuy before midnight that day and someone started shooting from across Raymond Bush Park. Gardner was shot in the stomach. He later died at a hospital, just two months shy of his second birthday.
Police believe Akeem Atris drove the getaway car after the shooting, and that Austin was one of the gunmen. When Austin was finally charged 10 months after the incident, he was already in jail for allegedly murdering a different person.
The Rev. Al Sharpton joined Gardner's family last year in laying the boy to rest at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. Sharpton also delivered a eulogy at the funeral service for the baby who was among four people shot. The others survived.
"If you can look at a baby and not stop gun violence, you are not worth anything to anybody," Sharpton said.
"My son is gone... don't have anyone pulling on me saying, 'Daddy,'" Davell Gardner, Sr. said at the time of the funeral.
The boy’s family wrote in the funeral program that Gardner “smiled and showed his dimples with a sparkle in his eyes.” They said he “is in heaven and he’s the family guardian angel. He will never be forgotten.”
The shooting happened amid of period of increased gun violence around New York City. More than twice the number of shootings was recorded that week over the same time period last year.
Addressing the senseless shooting in an interview with Sharpton a short time after it happened, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "I've seen a lot of really troubling things in seven years now as Mayor, but a 1-year-old killed on a playground, and when I talked to his mom the next day, I mean the shock and the pain in her face and the tears streaming down her face."
"We cannot make the mistake of the past – send in more and more officers without an attempt to actually work with the people whose community it is," the mayor said.
The NYPD's shooting database logged 43 shootings the week of Gardner's killing, compared to 13 last year - that's a 231 percent increase. The department says five people were killed in those shootings compared with 10 last year.
News 4 obtained data from the NYPD on shootings in New York City between January 1, 2020, and July 12, 2020, that reflect a 70 percent increase over the same period in 2019. One hundred fifteen victims of shootings during that period in 2020 died - up from 69 victims in the same six-month period in 2019.
|Ages||2020 (777 Victims)||2019 (456 Victims)|