Krystal Gonzalez took the podium more than two hours into a lengthy hearing on the Baltimore Police Department’s internal review of its actions leading up to the Brooklyn Day mass shooting. Her powerful testimony ground the hearing to a halt.
Gonzalez is the mother of 18-year-old Aaliyah Gonzalez, one of two young people killed when the annual cookout that erupted into an exchange of gunfire after hours of growing tensions at a party where several people flashed weapons but police chose not to intervene.
The video below is Gonzalez’s full testimony at the hearing.
Full transcript of Krystal Gonzalez’s testimony
“Hello, everyone. I want to say thank you for inviting me and allowing me to be here.
“This is not easy. It’s not easy.
“I get so much stomach upset. Just thinking and talking about it has been my life for the last two and a half months.
“I know you said we’re guests of honor. This is no honor. I appreciate the sentiment, but there’s a million things I’d rather do than be here and talk about this.
“So, we all know what happened ‘The Brooklyn Day Shooting’ ... this is a phrase that will repeat in my head rent-free for the rest of my life.
“I just turned 40 in June. I had no idea the next 40 years of my life would look really, really different. I had no idea.
“So, ‘Brooklyn Day’ happens. I have no idea what this event is.
“My daughter, Aaliyah, she’s been all over the news, and every time I see her pretty face on the TV, I’m like, ‘She’s not supposed to be there.’ Aaliyah has been an A, B student her entire life. I’ve always gotten a report card that says, ‘Congratulations, you’re on the honor roll.’ Every single time. There’s not one time I didn’t see that on her report card.
“Aaliyah was so respectful. She was very age-appropriate and I hope you all know what that means. She wasn’t out there twerking and doing all the things that we see.
“Aaliyah had a curfew her entire life. Not until she turned 18 in April. April 12 is her birthday.
“But until she graduated high school, she had a curfew at 11. She graduated high school three weeks prior to the shooting. Three weeks earlier, we watched our baby — my husband can’t be in here. He’s so anxious right now.
“We watched her walk across the stage at Maryland Live and receive her high school diploma, something she worked very hard for and something that we were so proud to see. After a graduation party, all the family came out. I made her put on her cap and gown for the people who couldn’t make the graduation just so we could have pictures of her, because we were so proud.
“Aaliyah would have never been out that late. But here’s the thing: she earned it.
“She did everything her father and I ever asked her for and then some. She wanted to celebrate her accomplishments. She wanted to go out and kick off the summer and have fun. Those kids wanted to have fun.
“Again, I had no idea about this block party, but I will tell you what a mother experienced that night.
“We got a call. ‘Aaliyah’s been shot. Alex, they’re lying. Can’t be Aaliyah. She was just here.’
“As a matter of fact, before she left, I’ll rewind a little bit. Aaliyah came in the house, and I heard her keys. So, I met her in the hallway. I was sitting on my bed, and I met her in the hallway, and she just tilted her head to look at me. She said, ‘What’s wrong, mom?’ And I said, ‘Nothing, baby. I’m just happy to see you.’
“Because I’m always happy to see her. She gave me a hug. We hugged each other. And I know now that was the spirit telling me, ‘Go to her. Go to her.’
“Later that night, she says, ‘Mom, I’m getting ready to leave. I love you, and I’ll see you later.’
“I don’t think this is what she meant when I saw her later that night.
“‘Aaliyah’s been shot. No, she hasn’t, Alex. Not Aaliyah. Not Aaliyah. They’re lying. There’s somebody else, but they are calling from her phone.’
“I get on the scene. There’s police tape. There’s so many ambulances out there. But they tell my husband and I that everyone’s going to Harbor Hospital. We get in my car. We run to Harbor Hospital as fast as we possibly could get there. And there were so many people there, so many kids. It was so chaotic.
“And my husband’s at the desk, the receptionist, and he says, ‘Aaliyah Gonzalez, she has to be here.’ And he said, ‘Sir, she’s not here.’ I said, ‘Listen, there’s a lot of people. Maybe you haven’t registered her, but they told me she would be here, so she has to be here.’
“She’s not there.
“My husband calls Aaliyah’s phone back, and they say, ‘Sir, your daughter is still here at 807 Gretna Court. She’s dead. She’s still lying here on the ground.’
“So, we run back over from Harbor Hospital to 807 Gretna Court. And at this time, I’m not stopping for nobody. I’m pushing through people. I’m pushing through police officers.
“I’ve got to get to her. I’ve got to get to her. They told me she’s here and if I can, I would like to play a video from that night. I’m not sure if you can see, but you can certainly hear what I’ve experienced that night.
[Audio playing from the video: ‘Damn yo. That’s her daughter. Oh my God.’ Screaming is heard.]
“I hate it. I hated that video. It got to my son before I could even call him. It was already on the Internet, and I hated every part of that video. It shows my daughter laying on the stairs with a white sheet over her and me knowing that was her, because she would have called me a long time ago.
“She called me. She texts me 50,000 times a day. I didn’t hear from her. I know that’s her.
“And most of you, I don’t know. I know some of you were on the scene with me. And see what you don’t know. I said, ‘What you don’t know is what grief does, because I can hear what you’re saying, but I don’t understand what you’re saying. My daughter was just with me hours ago, and she’s not dead. She’s waiting for me to help her. She doesn’t know you, just let me get to her.’
“See, that’s what grief does. It makes you play these things that you know are not true, are not reasonable.
“‘But she’s waiting for me, so move, please. Let me get to her.’
“I got on a scene. The police told me, ‘We just found out about it today.’ Immediately, I said, ‘Alex, they’re lying. Someone told us that we just found out about the Brooklyn Day block party today.’
“I stayed on the scene. My husband and I could not leave, and I stayed there. And I wondered, why was she laying there so long on the stairs? Her back is on concrete.
“‘Would you please move her? It must hurt her to lay like that. That’s not comfortable for her.’ And again, I know what I see.
“I’m a logical person. But a mother does not understand that. So now we wait for a coroner to get there, and you want to put her in a bag. Why would you put my beautiful baby in a bag? She can’t breathe in there.
“Knowing that there were calls, endless calls for help, and no one showed up. Knowing that. Foxtrot, I now know the name, the helicopter, who’s hundreds of feet in the air will tell you as they look down from hundreds of feet in the air that everything looks normal. What’s your normal? I challenge you. What is your normal? Let them take each other out. Is that your normal? That’s what happened.
“I can never, ever have the only thing that I want back. I never thought in a million years I’d have to walk without her. I go on a lot of walks. Sometimes I have to hug myself to imagine her hugging me back. Sometimes I have to reach my hand out to imagine I’m holding her hand while I’m walking. This is my life. And people — people did not care enough to check on them, to check on her. It’s not right.
“So, I’m forced to adjust, and I’m forced to live with this for the rest of my life. I’ve returned back to work just last week, and it’s been a challenge. Everything is a challenge.
“My son, he misses her. People don’t know. My girls are a year apart. [Sister’s name] 17. Aaliyah’s 18. They shared a room their entire life. You tell your sister, Aaliyah played the big sister very well. [Sister’s name] played the little sister very well. She’s used to hiding under the cover of her sister. She is being forced now to be alone, to be alone. And it’s so hard for her. You guys don’t know. I have to make sure grief counseling is in place for them at school. She walks around, and she feels like everybody’s staring at her, and they know she can’t have a regular life. This is her senior year, high school.
“This did not have to happen. This didn’t have to happen. If there were one or two or three patrol cars out there. I’m sorry, guys. As I said, this is my life. I thank you for letting me speak today.”