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The stray bullet murder of Wakefield grandmother Sadie Mitchell on Tuesday, October 20 has neighbors frightened and determined to counsel wayward teens. On Friday, October 23, Jamal Blair, 18, pled not guilty to second-degree murder.
Blair fired a 9mm handgun in response to an argument with a group of teens from the Edenwald Houses, police said. The shot passed through a window on E. 224th Street and hit Mitchell, a churchgoer and neighborhood volunteer, in her living room. She phoned a neighbor, Mary Fields, who found Mitchell on the floor. Mitchell passed away at 9:30 p.m. at Jacobi Medical Center. She lived alone. Blair fired into the air to break up the argument, his lawyer said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the accident a “heartbreaking tragedy” and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. reaffirmed a zero tolerance strategy for illegal guns. 47th Precinct Community Council president Elizabeth Gill hopes the neighborhood will rally around the murder to curb teen violence. She and 47th Precinct Deputy Inspector Paul DeEntremont plan to engage Wakefield parents in workshops soon.
“We need to get the youngsters and parents together,” Gill said. “Parents need to know what these youngsters are doing. These youngsters have guns in their bedrooms.”
Crime has decreased in the 47th Precinct, Gill said. DeEntremont boasts an impact squad of additional police officers. Parents need to shoulder responsibility rather than blame the 47th Precinct, Gill added. But Niokka Jackson, a parent at P.S. 21 on E. 225th Street near the murder scene, is upset. White Plains road is dangerous and Bronxwood Avenue worse, the E. 221st Street resident said.
Jackson wants to see more police officers at P.S. 21 after school. The 47th Precinct flooded Wakefield when Mitchell was murdered but pulled away as soon as Blair was arrested, she said. Crime in the 47th Precinct is down more than six percent compared to 2008 but the murder rate has climbed.
“This neighborhood is ridiculous,” Jackson said. “We need a community center. We only have liquor stores.”
Community Board 12 public safety committee chair Walter Burgin agreed. Civic leaders want the city and state to help build a new community center; a handful met with Diaz Jr. on Tuesday, October 27. There were more murders in 1980s and 1990s Wakefield but there are more guns on the street today, Burgin said.
“Our kids have nowhere to go,” Burgin added. “We need an massive [community] center. We need to raise our kids, not let the streets raise them. We need our kids to stop and think. [Blair] had no idea he would kill [Mitchell] but he had the gun in his hand.”
There are city Department of Youth and Community Development Beacon centers at Eastchester Gardens Community Center, John Philip Sousa Junior High School and Richard R. Green Junior High School but Burgin described those as “not even a band-aid.” Burgin asked the neighborhood to back the 47th Precinct. DeEntremont is doing his best, Burgin said. Bloomberg and Gill praised the rapid arrest. Detectives ran a nickname – “Fish” – through a downtown database to find Blair. The teen confessed to the murder but claimed it was an accident, police said. His lawyer plans to question the confession.
Our Lady of Grace Church will hold a funeral Mass on Friday, October 30 at 11 a.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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