Anthony Wicks counts himself lucky to have only suffered a minor wound after he was grazed by a bullet at the Brooklyn Day mass shooting in early July, but he still faces challenges.

On Thursday evening, Wicks, 39, was one of several residents to share his experience with the mayor, police commissioner, other public officials and community members at a neighborhood forum discussing one of the worst mass shootings in the city’s history.

Wicks said he is still trying to convince his daughter, who was with him that night, to move back to the Brooklyn Homes community, where he has lived for 10 years.

But while public officials may have been bracing for challenging questions following the release of critical internal reviews by city agencies, Wicks wanted instead to share his gratitude, in particular for the victims’ services arm of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement. He singled out Mark Mason, the associate director of victims’ services at the agency.

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“He talked me through a lot of things, he calmed me down, to give me a better attitude on what’s going on and how to deal with things,” Wicks said. “I just want to come here to show my gratitude to let you know that I appreciate you, and there’s more to be done.”

Wicks’ sentiment was echoed by others at the meeting, including the mother of a shooting victim, who shared her appreciation for Safe Streets violence interrupters stationed in Brooklyn.

And while there was gratitude for the city resources that have poured into the community since the July 2 shooting, there was also a sense of frustration that those resources might have come too late.

“It shouldn’t take a mass shooting for all the help we’re getting now, it’s not right,” said another resident, who did not identify herself by name. “To me, it’s not right.”

Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley, left, and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott take questions from reporters outside Bay-Brook Elementary/Middle School in Brooklyn Thursday before hosting a community meeting.
Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley, left, and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott take questions from reporters outside Bay-Brook Elementary/Middle School in Brooklyn Thursday before hosting a community meeting. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

The Baltimore Police Department’s internal report on the Brooklyn Day shooting sheds light on how officers and supervisors alike missed or failed to act on signs that the annual block party was growing out of control as the day wore on. As a whole, the 100-page document revealed just how disconnected the Police Department is from some of the city’s more underserved communities.

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That disconnect played a critical role in the Police Department’s lack of preparation for, and its decision not to intervene in, the Brooklyn Day event. Shortly after 12:30 a.m. on July 2, the block party turned tragic. A crowd of hundreds became caught in a shooting, with more than a dozen guns being fired, sending people scattering in all directions.

Two of the partygoers were killed in the gunfire. An 18-year-old woman, Aaliyah Gonzalez, was pronounced dead at the scene. A young man, Kylis Fagbemi, 20, died at an area hospital. Twenty-eight others were wounded.

Among the report’s findings: indifference among key police officials likely played more of a role in the failure to engage the growing Brooklyn Day crowd than staff shortages, which the police union identified as a culprit in the aftermath of the shooting.

The report also found that another driving factor was mismanagement by high-ranking supervisors, who chose not to redirect resources that were available across the city’s nine police districts, and could have been called upon on the evening of the shooting.

Brooklyn Homes is one of the busiest patrol areas of the city, but the Police Department has not developed relationships with residents there, according to the report. It relies instead on formal associations with community groups. Residents quoted in the report said that they felt neglected by police and opined that the department would have never let a crowd grow to that size in whiter, wealthier parts of the city.

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Before the community forum, Acting Police Commissioner Rich Worley described the agency’s internal review as a “first step” toward repairing those relationships. If confirmed by the City Council, Worley said community policing would be a focus for him.

“I’m going to push, if I get into office, to enforce more foot patrols, getting out of the car and more community engagement,” Worley said.

The acting police commissioner was also asked during the forum if any progress had been made toward arresting more of the shooters from that evening. He answered that the four arrests made so far have “not even touched the surface.”

Worley said detectives are “constantly reviewing video” of the shooting. A recent incident that happened in another part of the city — he didn’t say where — “ties back to Brooklyn” Worley said, and has given detectives more information in the investigation.

But detectives are largely relying on video and other data, less so on eyewitnesses, Worley said.

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To that end, a different resident spoke to a community fear of sharing information with police, representing the work still to be done in repairing relationships between residents and officers.

“People don’t want to talk,” she said. “They know what we look like. People who live in this neighborhood, they see us come and go every day.”

bconarck@thebaltimorebanner.com

Ben Conarck is a criminal justice reporter focusing on law enforcement for The Baltimore Banner. Previously, he covered healthcare and investigations for the Miami Herald and criminal justice for the Florida Times-Union. 

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