In April, Mayor Michael Bloomberg lashed out at the media for, as he saw it, ignoring the shooting death of a 17-year-old black teen in the Bronx named Alphonza Bryant.
"There was not even a mention of his murder in our paper of record, the New York Times," Bloomberg fumed during a public safety address to NYPD top brass on April 30. "All the news that's fit to print did not include the murder of 17-year-old Alphonza Bryant."
"Do you think if a white 17-year-old prep student from Manhattan had been murdered, the Times would have ignored it?" he continued. "Me neither."
This has been a frequent refrain from Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in defense of the heavy police presence and use of stop-and-frisk in predominantly low-income, minority communities: The vast majority of victims of gun crime are young men of color.
The next day, the Times published a long piece on Bryant, framing it in the context of the gun death of his father.
Early last month, two more young black men were killed by gun violence. The location of their death — Fort Greene Park — drew some attention because over the past several years, that neighborhood has grown increasingly expensive and seemingly safer.
According to police reports, about 11:26 p.m. on Aug. 9, officers inside Fort Green Park heard gunshots and saw a black male who appeared to be in his late teens wearing red shorts and a white baseball cap running in their direction. The officers said the teen was waving a gun and fired multiple shots in the air. They chased him but he got away.
Two victims were found near the basketball court by Myrtle Avenue and St. Edwards Street. Jahmal Page and Javon Anthony Earl-Govon, both 21, were lying face-down on the ground and had been shot once in the head.
Investigators believe that the young men may have been part of a group of friends that had some sort of physical altercation with the shooter prior to this incident. They also believe the gunman they chased was not the perpetrator, but a friend of the victims who was firing into the crowd randomly while fleeing.
Page's mother, Paulette Page, described her son as "a fun-loving person" who played football, rapped, "was into fashion" and "liked music, entertaining people [and] partying." He and Earl-Govon were there with a group of about five other friends for a cookout.
She said they had known each other for a while because they had gone to school together but just started hanging out two months prior to the shooting.
Jahmal was her only child. She said she has no idea why he would have been a target.
"I don't know what to say," she said. "He didn't have any enemies out here."
Paulette said her son was not involved with any gangs and was "actually working with a trading school" as part of a program called Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow. The organization describes its mission as helping "disadvantaged youth and adults recognize their own self-worth and advance towards self-sufficiency and financial security." Paulette said a week before the shooting, Jahmal had decided to go live in North Carolina in the fall with her brother, who was going to help him apply to schools.
The night of the shooting, her sister found out about Jahmal first and told her. Paulette went to several hospitals in Brooklyn but couldn't find her son. Finally, someone told her to go to Fort Greene Park. She discovered police had kept the scene intact — and the boys' bodies where they'd fallen — because it was an active investigation.
After the shooting there was a candlelight vigil on Washington and St. Johns, where Paulette's mother lives.
"That's where he grew up," Paulette explains. "That's where all his friends and everything are."
Paulette has had no updates from the police regarding the investigation into her son's death. She said she doesn't understand how there were so many people at the barbeque but apparently no leads on the identity of the shooter.
"There were so many people around and nobody saying anything," she said. "I mean, I'm pretty sue that somebody saw something, but they're not really saying who, what or whatever… I don't know [why], maybe because they may be scared of the person or persons. I don't know."
Paulette has been told by some people in the community that two young men were responsible for the shooting, and has been given their street names, but chose not to share them in case they're innocent. She's not afraid, she said. She just has no desire for more young men to suffer needlessly.
Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat