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In Wake of Officer-Involved Shooting, Residents Speaking out About Violence in the Community

By Carol Elizabeth Owens

An RPD officer patrol the street after the incident Friday

The fatal shooting of a young man in a Jay Street neighborhood on Friday, May 14 in the early morning hours has raised concerns amongst residents.

We spoke with several community members in the immediate area where the incident took place as the RPD’s investigation into the situation was continuing to unfold on-scene.

“Early (Friday) morning, I was up while it was all happening.  I heard the cops, like, booking it down the street, and I heard a bunch of gunshots,” said Esteban Martinez.  “I read somewhere today that he (the young man killed by RPD gunfire) didn’t have a gun but they (RPD) thought he displayed a weapon.” 

Martinez, a 21-year-old Afro-Latino man, expressed a focused concern. 

“They (RPD) need to learn how to police better; I think cops need to keep their eyes open better, because I think they are just doing things just to do it, especially what’s going (on) with Blacks and police,” Martinez said. 

On the issue of gun violence in general, Martinez stated, “Nowadays you don’t know what or who bullets are meant for – bullets are meant for anybody at this point.  Nowadays, people don’t have aim, and under pressure, they don’t have good aim.  So police and regular people can shoot anybody at any point in the community.  It’s all happening; I don’t know.  I am getting tired of it.”  He added, “Every day you’ve got to really watch your back.”

While Martinez spoke about the need to exercise situational awareness to protect himself from gun violence, other neighborhood residents find themselves having to counsel family members about how to handle interactions with police officers.

“I have six kids— five boys; and I don’t want to see my boys get shot,” said Ms. Florence, an African-American woman who is concerned for the safety of her children in the community. 

Her five sons range in age from 11 years old to 30.  “I try to guide them; when police say, ‘Stop!  Put your hands up!’ I mean – don’t reach for nothing,” Florence said.  “I don’t want it to be my child.  No!  I don’t want it.”

She learned about the officer-involved shooting while watching television Friday morning.  “A man was stopped – a traffic stop; and so he didn’t have a gun and they (RPD) shot him,” said Florence.  “To me, my opinion; I don’t think that was right.  And on top of that, I don’t understand why they keep sending all of these White officers out here for Black-on-Black crime.  White officers are quick to shoot the Black people.”

And, although as the situation unfolded, it became clear that the person shot was a white man, Florence and other community members assumed—based on previous trends—that it was a Black person who had been shot.

“Sometimes you really don’t know what happened,” said J.D. McFadden when asked about situations where unarmed persons are shot and killed by law enforcement officers.  “It just seems strange why only Blacks are getting shot.  I think they (police and government) are trying to kill off all the Black people.”

McFadden is a 76-year-old African-American man who has lived in Rochester for 54 years. 

“I have never known so much violence.  It seems like now you can predict every day there’s going to be some violence.  So when I woke up this morning, I heard about that, so – oh well; nothing new, it’s happening every night.  Yep,” he stated.

McFadden says he is equally concerned about community violence in general “I don’t know what to say because it seems like everything they (criminals) are doing, they are getting away with it.  The police, they can’t lock guys up nowadays, so they’ll just take you to jail, give you a ticket and just let you go.  They don’t want to put anybody in jail.  So that’s why I think a lot of the violence is coming in – because no one is going to jail.”

“Every night, there is something going on – shooting, so you’ve got to expect that,” McFadden said.  “I need to go back to Mississippi in a small town, because you don’t have all of that violence.  I don’t think anything is as bad as here in Rochester.”

Martinez also offered insight into what could be causing the outbreak of violence we are experiencing in the Rochester community.

“It’s something that people need—to let go of violent aggression,” Martinez said.  “It is a release of the violent anger.  The violence will never stop.”  

“You’ve got to have your head on the swivel 24/7,” he said.  “You have to keep watching your back every moment, because you never know.”