The aftermath of the Brooklyn Homes mass shooting was playing out at a City Council hearing today – police brass acknowledging that mistakes were made, lawmakers pressing them about new plans and policies – when, suddenly, one woman’s gut-wrenching testimony brought the bureaucratic noise to a grinding halt.
The speaker was Krystal Gonzales, the mother of 18-year-old Aaliyah Gonzalez, who was shot and killed at the July 2 block party that police, we now know, stayed away from despite getting calls for hours that the party was growing violent.
Addressing a rapt audience in the Council chambers, Gonzales recalled all that welled up in her that night when she and her husband arrived at the far south Baltimore housing complex and saw her daughter’s slumped body.
“I wondered, why was she laying there so long? On the stairs? Her back was on concrete. Would you please move her? It must hurt her to lay like that. That’s not comfortable for her,” Gonzales said through sobs.
“I know what I see, I’m a logical person. But a mother does not understand that,” she said. “Why would you put my beautiful baby in a bag? She can’t breathe in there!”
“That’s what grief does – it makes you play these things that you know are not true, are not reasonable.”
[FULL MEETING VIDEO BELOW]
“Endless calls for help”
Gonzales, who turned at times to face Acting Police Commissioner Richard Worley and other city officials in the room, spared the audience nothing.
She pulled out her cellphone and played the video that circulated on the Internet that night, capturing her high-pitched screams as she arrived to find her daughter under a white sheet.
“I’m not sure if you can see, but you can certainly hear what I experienced that night,” she said, hitting the button and closing her eyes. “That video – I hate it.”
Mostly maintaining her composure through 10 highly charged minutes at the podium, Gonzales continued.
While the person or persons who shot her daughter were not in the room, Gonzales said the people in charge of the agency that could have prevented it were.
“Knowing that there were calls, endless calls for help, and no one showed up,” Gonzales began.
She pointed to the fact that the officer flying above the party in the police Foxtrot helicopter, observing hundreds of people and hearing from a dispatcher that there were reports of gunfire, dismissed the shots as fireworks and said “everything appears to be normal.”
“Foxtrot will tell you from hundreds of feet in the air as they look down that everything looks normal?”
“What’s your normal? I challenge you: what is your normal!” she demanded. “Let them take each other out? Is that your normal?”
“I have to hug myself”
Gonzales finishing by trying to describe what life has been like for her since that night.
“I go on my walks. Sometimes I have to hug myself to imagine her hugging me back,” she said.
“Sometimes, I have to reach my hand out to imagine I’m holding her hand while I’m walking.”
After she concluded, Councilman Mark Conway, chairman of the public safety committee, called for a brief recess.
He then announced he was recessing the hearing until further notice.
“I don’t feel comfortable continuing,” he said.
“My charge to the folks in this room is: take that, ingest it, appreciate how important our responsibility is.”
CHARM TV VIDEO of the Baltimore City Council’s 9/13/23 committee hearing on the Brooklyn Homes mass shooting. It includes the testimony of Krystal Gonzales, the mother of 18-year-old Aailiyah Gonzales who was shot and killed that night. She begins speaking at the 2:05:19 mark. It’s very powerful – be prepared for that.