Brooklyn Day, where 28 young people were shot and two killed early Sunday morning, was an “unsanctioned event” that took place on its property without its authorization or knowledge, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) says.
The Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE), meanwhile, calls Brooklyn Day a “non-sponsored event” where Safe Streets outreach workers had broken up several fights earlier in the evening, but weren’t around when the shooting started.
Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley adds that Brooklyn Day was an “unpermitted event” that police knew took place around July 1st, but this year weren’t aware that hundreds of teenagers had amassed in the 800 block of Gretna Court until it was too late.
Finally, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott says that the eleven boys and girls, age 14, 15 and 16, who were hospitalized with gunshot wounds were not necessarily in violation of his 11 p.m. youth curfew.
“One, this is Brooklyn Day. In Brooklyn Homes, I can be outside my house, right? We have to understand that. The second part, if I’m not from Brooklyn Homes and am with an adult, then I am not in violation of the curfew,” the mayor explained.
In short, Scott said his administration did its best in a trying situation, and attention should now be directed at finding the still unknown perpetrators.
“That’s where our focus should be,” Scott told reporters yesterday. “On those few who cowardly decided to shoot up a big block party celebration in the community. The weapons they used, where they got those weapons, how they got them in their hands and how we’re going to hold all of them accountable.”
In contrast to the mayor’s words came this assessment of what happened given to The Brew by a resident of the 800 block of Gretna Court:
“There was a big disturbance. Everybody called it in, but they [the police] took too long to get here.”
“I don’t understand why”
The housing complex’s parking lots and alleys, where reportedly 800 or more people had gathered for hotdogs, hamburgers and music, were cleaned up on Monday.
The crime scene tape was gone, but residents were still processing the way the party had transformed their front yards, in an instant, into a war zone.
Angeline Johnson, sitting on the steps of her Gretna Court home, said she was enjoying the party until the shooting started and she raced inside to take cover.
“It took the police a long, long time to come. I don’t understand why,” she told The Brew, saying multiple neighbors called 911 to report gunfire.
“The helicopters came, but then they went away.”
BROOKLYN HOMES: A PROFILE
Brooklyn Homes is two-story development of 482 affordable units that straddles Brooklyn and Curtis Bay. Publicly owned by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC), it currently has 1,153 residents.
93% of the households were headed by minorities in 2019, and 89% had incomes below 30% of the Baltimore area median.
● Vacancy Rate
○ According to a 2007 study by the Abell Foundation about the elimination of public housing in Baltimore, Brooklyn Homes had a vacancy rate of 24% in 2006 and 15% in 2007. Updated information is not available in HABC’s annual reports.
● HABC Expenditures
○ According to HABC’s 2021 annual report, $1,014,727 was spent on “vacancy renovations” and security improvements for Brooklyn Homes.
○ The only planned expenditure this year is $298,800 to install window security screens and renovate management/maintenance offices.
○ In 2018, HABC received a grant from the Department of Housing Safety and Security to install six cameras, security lighting and some fiber-optic cable as part of a “crime fighting and deterrent strategy.”
● HUD Inspection Scores (Anything below 60 is considered failing)
○ 2015: 50
○ 2017: 63
○ 2019: 71
○ 2022: 63c (while property passed, at least one life-threatening health and safety deficiency was found).
○ The greater South Baltimore community that includes Brooklyn Homes (a population of approximately 34,000) averaged 14.2 homicides a year over the last five years. Sunday’s mass shooting makes 9 homicides so far in 2023.
○ The community has experienced 378 total crimes in 2023, led by 61 aggravated assaults.
● Community Engagement
○ Brooklyn Homes has a tenant council, but it hasn’t been active on social media since 2018.
○ Some people online blame the police department’s lack of community engagement as to why law enforcement didn’t know Brooklyn Day was happening.
○ Information about Saturday’s party appears to have been disseminated largely through word of mouth, not social media.
-Research by Laura Fay
“It was very traumatic”
According to dispatch audio reviewed by the Baltimore Sun, the Southern Police District got a 911 call just before 10 p.m. Saturday, reporting “hundreds of males and females armed with guns and knives” at Brooklyn Homes.
The call elicited a joking response from one officer, who said the dispatcher would “probably have to redirect that call to the National Guard.”
More calls about people fighting, loud noise and a potential shooting were received by police before 11 p.m.
A police Foxtrot helicopter flew over the scene and reported about 700 people outside, but no sign of gunfire or other disturbances.
“Everything appears to be normal. [People] just walking around, hanging out,” said the person in the helicopter, according to the audio.
Johnson said she didn’t see who began firing shots sometime after 12 midnight, but witnessed the terrible aftermath.
She pointed to steps just a few feet from her home.
“The girl died right there,” she said, referring to Aaliyah Gonzales, 18, who police found dead of gunshot wounds around 12:35 a.m. Sunday.
“I keep thinking about that. It’s very traumatic. She was just starting her life. My heart goes out to her.”
Johnson said she moved to Brooklyn Homes in 2022 and attended last year’s Brooklyn Day party. She said the police were there, and she was happy to have them around.
“I don’t understand why they didn’t have them this year,” she said.
The reason there was no police presence this year, Worley told reporters on Monday, was that they did not have enough advance notice of the party.
Rather than asking the tenant council or HABC, which manages the complex, when the party would take place, Worley said the police depend on their own “social media analysts” and an “intel officer from the Southern District” to determine the date of Brooklyn Day.
“It is an event that’s happened every single year and, most of the time, we are able to find out the date that it is occurring,” he said. “I can tell you, all of our social media analysts, the intel officer from the Southern – none of the officers we spoke to ever escalated anything that Brooklyn Day was happening” until a few hours before the party began.
If police had more time, Worley asserted, “we could have put a plan in effect, something like last year, if we had known it was coming.”
“All of our social media analysts, the intel officer from the Southern – none of the officers we spoke to ever escalated anything” – Richard Worley, Acting Police Commissioner.
“Unfortunately, the conversation to deploy more resources was too late. By the time we got there, the incident had already occurred. We have officers on the ground and in the districts [who] get information from Foxtrot. It was relayed to members on the ground monitoring the party, and we want to look into what they did with the information, how quickly it was escalated up, so we could get them extra resources,” Worley said, acknowledging an intelligence failure.
“This could have been prevented”
At a community walk through last night, a regular event held by the violence interruption group We Our Us, an organizer said interpersonal conflicts in the days before the cookout were discernible on social media.
“If people had used our Stop the Beef Hotline, this could have been prevented,” Corey Barnes, of the GraceCity Church, said.
“There was a lot of chatter about this for days,” he added.
For the last 27 years, Brooklyn Day was an annual event where former and current residents could meet, dance and drink. This year there were cookouts, pony rides for the kids and other events.
The Brooklyn Homes Tenant Council that used to organize Brooklyn Day, didn’t take charge this year, according to City Councilwoman Phylicia Porter, who explained that the group “hasn’t had consistent leadership.”
Instead, organizing for the block party, she told The Brew, “was done more in an ad hoc way by individuals.”
As for the Housing Authority – on whose property the shooting occurred – the federally-funded entity claimed no responsibility for it.
“This was an unsanctioned event that was held without HABC’s or the city’s authorization,” said senior vice president of communications, Ingrid Antonio, in a brief emailed statement.
Now that HABC knows about the party’s existence, “we have been working closely with the BPD to assist with their active investigation, and they will continue to provide us and the public with updates as they are made available to them. Additionally, we have support staff onsite to provide counseling and health and wellness checks to residents and their families and will continue to offer these resources as necessary,” Antonio said.
What Did Safe Streets Do?
MONSE, Scott’s community safety and engagement agency, deployed Safe Streets violence interrupters during the party, according to Interim Director Stefanie Mavronis, who replaced outgoing MONSE Director Shantay Jackson on June 30.
“Early in the evening, some of our Safe Streets staff, just as part of their activities, were out there and did de-escalate three to four conflicts,” Mavronis said yesterday.
But it appears that Safe Streets staff did not inform police of its activities.
“I don’t know that Safe Streets would relay that [to police],” Mavronis said. “I would say there is some level of communication about any incidents that is outside their purview,” adding:
“Again, the time at which Safe Streets was at this event, there was not an indication that this is where the event was heading.”
Peace Mobile and More
MONSE has dispatched its Peace Mobile and other resources to Brooklyn Homes to help residents heal from Sunday’s trauma, Mavronis announced yesterday.
She ticked off the resources as follows:
“Baltimore Crisis Response Inc., Catholic Charities, Red Cross of Central Maryland and Transformation Health. We also have Baltimore City Public Schools social workers familiar with the immediate community on site.”
She continued: “Housing services with partners from the Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development and the Housing Authority. Health services with partners from MedStar Harbor Hospital and Health Care Access Maryland. Rental and utility assistance with partners from the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success. Employment assistance with partners from the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development and the South Baltimore Employment Connection Center.”
Finally, MONSE has stationed its newly acquired Peace Mobile, outfitted with video games, snacks, laptops, board games and a punching bag, at Brooklyn Homes to act “as a resource hub and place of solace for residents.”