‘So many of these families are broken’: The epicenter of gun violence, the Bronx copes with another young life lost

gun violence rally Foxhurst
Classmates of 11-year-old Kyhara Tay visit a makeshift memorial erected following her tragic death Monday near the intersection of Fox and 165th streets.
Photo Adrian Childress

For the third day in a row, sorrow ravaged the South Bronx at a Wednesday rally against gun violence in the wake of another shooting in the borough — this time claiming the life of 11-year-old Kyhara Tay.

Like a dark cloud hovering over the northernmost borough, the intersection of Fox and East 165th streets was transformed into this week’s epicenter of violence following Monday’s shooting, where members of Tay’s family joined with elected officials and the Foxhurst community to mourn another innocent life stolen in the blink of an eye.

A makeshift memorial, first erected for Tay on Monday, May 16, continued to grow Wednesday with balloons, flowers, stuffed animals and handwritten messages adorning cardboard cutouts stationed near the location of her final steps.

Although her mother Yahisha Gomez was unable to bring herself to address to the crowd that had gathered, Tay’s grandmother told onlookers that seeing so many people show up in support gave the family the strength to move forward. “I just want to say thank you, my daughter has no words … looking around and seeing so many people supporting us, we appreciate it,” she said.

Tay’s grandmother briefly reflected on attending Bible School with her granddaughter and singing her favorite song “Take Me to the King,” by Tamela Mann.

gun violence rally Foxhurst
Residents of the South Bronx join in a rally against gun violence on Wednesday, May 18. Photo Adrian Childress

But amidst the visceral emotions of the moment Wednesday was a growing anger and repeated calls for action to halt the proliferation of guns in the Bronx.

“There are simply no words for what occurred yesterday,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson and City Councilmember Rafael Salamanca Jr. in a statement. “When we cannot protect our young babies from the threat of incessant gun violence then we know we are in a state of emergency … and we offer our heartfelt condolences and prayers of strength and healing to the family of Kyhara Tay. Their loss is unconscionable and unacceptable.”

Tay was gunned down in the early evening hours Monday while on her way to a nail salon on Fox Street with an older friend — less than a block from where the shots were fired — when she was struck in the abdomen by a stray bullet in a botched drive-by shooting. Officers from the 41st Precinct assisted EMS in rushing the girl from 993 Fox St. to Lincoln Hospital around 5 p.m. Monday evening, but she succumbed to injuries shortly after.

Tay wasn’t the intended target of the bullet, but that does nothing to lessen the pain of the latest chapter of the city’s gun violence saga.

For a community in mourning, the weight of another young victim was more than enough impetus for calls to bring the assailants to justice. The NYPD is offering up to a $10,000 reward for information leading to the gunman’s arrest. The two suspects were last seen leaving the scene on a scooter.

gun violence rally Foxhurst
Students write messages to Kyhara Tay, the 11-year-old girl tragically gunned down on Monday, May 16. Photo Adrian Childress

“So many of these families are broken, they will never be the same again and no words will ever change that,” Gibson said. “But I have to still believe the we can get through this because we can’t give up. We can’t allow the few minority that choose to engage in violence in our communities to win because there are more good people that care, that want to see safe streets.”

For the community of Foxhurst, within the confines of the 41st Precinct, major crime has spiked 41% since the turn of the calendar.

According to the latest NYPD crime data available as of May 15, there have been 447 shootings in NYC this year — 157 of those shootings were in the Bronx accounting for only a minimal uptick over 2021. Those figures don’t account for the May 16 shooting that killed Tay, however.

“It doesn’t change, the victims sadly, just keep getting younger and younger,” said Ernest Watson, who has lived in the Foxhurst section for 30-plus years. “But it’s not just the victims getting younger, these kids are getting their hands on guns, getting their advice from lifelong criminals, and it’s just sad all around.”

On Wednesday, elected officials pointed the finger at gun manufacturers for their role in what some consider a burgeoning epidemic — there have been more than 200 mass shootings across the U.S. this year.
“Guns start legal at some point and become illegal when they are stolen,” said Gibson. “I think we have to go after these (gun) manufacturers. We have to get these guns out of these communities. I understand people are always talking about the right to bear arms, but not the right to kill and shoot people in our neighborhoods.”
gun violence rally Foxhurst
Kyhara Tay’s father Sokpini delicately places flowers on a street memorial erected following his daughter’s senseless death. Photo Adrian Childress

The rally also brought renewed calls for increased programs and resources for low-income communities like this one in the South Bronx. Lone Wolf, a member of the Christian-based nonprofit Least of Saints Motorcycle Club, said young men out roaming the streets need something to take the guns out of their hands.

“When I was out here as an outreach worker, my thing was looking for something to replace the gun from these gentlemen’s hands,” he said. “That means getting them a job, that means opening these facilities and programs for them to go and learn something. We got to come together as a community, we used to say ‘unity in the community, unidad en la comunidad.'”

Reach Christian Falcone at [email protected] or (718) 260-2541. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes