Bloomberg blames guns for violence after parade

NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg Tuesday blamed illegal handguns for a shooting that killed three people and wounded two police officers a few blocks from the route of the annual West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn, saying federal officials have not had the “courage” to take steps to control gun use.

Bullet fragments hit one police officer in the left arm and chest Monday night. He was hospitalized but was expected to survive. Another officer was grazed by a bullet. Two shooters were killed along with a bystander, 56-year-old Denise Gay, who was shot while sitting on a stoop with her daughter nearby just two doors down from the exchange of gunfire.

Bloomberg said Gay’s death was “a senseless murder, and another painful reminder I think of what happens when elected officials in Washington fail to take the problem of illegal guns seriously.”

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the gunman who killed Gay had an extensive criminal history, including criminal possession of a firearm and assault and drug charges.

“This is a national problem requiring national leadership,” Bloomberg said, “but at the moment neither end of Pennsylvania Avenue has had the courage to take basic steps that would save lives.”

The gunshots rang out just after 9 p.m. Monday in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood after the hours-long parade, which also was marred by fatal shootings in 2003 and 2005. Post-parade parties are common, but police wouldn’t say if Monday’s fatal shooting was related to the parade.

The shootings started as an exchange between two armed men, and when officers who had been assigned to parade duties arrived at the scene, they were fired upon and returned fire, police said.

Witnesses said the shooting went on for at least 30 seconds. Area resident Thomas Kaminsky said it sounded like machine-gun fire outside his building.

Earlier Monday, as revelers filled the streets in colorful costumes during the parade, gun violence brought the festivities to a stop in spots, scattering the panicked crowd. Police said four people were shot and wounded along the parade route and a 15-year-old boy was grazed by a bullet nearby.

The holiday weekend was particularly violent and included a Sunday shooting in the Bronx in which eight people, including children, were wounded. Four other people were shot, one fatally, in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn early Monday.

The upcoming 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and holiday weekend violence had put the city “on heightened alert,” Kelly said before the parade stepped off.

Police helicopters hovered overhead during the parade, and officers on scooters and on foot patrolled the surrounding blocks.

A City Council member was detained after getting into a confrontation with police.

“We’re doing a lot of things both seen and unseen,” the commissioner said.

Bloomberg held a news conference early Tuesday morning at a Brooklyn hospital where Officer Omar Medina, 36, was being treated for his arm and chest wounds. Officer Avichaim Dicken, whose arm was grazed, was at a second hospital.

Bloomberg said he and Kelly had been discussing the problem of illegal guns on Monday morning and how there is an urgent need for federal action.

He said New York City has had four of its safest years “because we have taken unprecedented steps to stem the flow of illegal guns onto our streets. But we cannot do it alone.”

“I wish federal representatives from around the country were here with me here tonight to speak with Officer Medina and Officer Dicken, and hear about the dangers they and all of the other New York Finest have to confront every single day,” Bloomberg said. “And I wish they could visit the family of Denise Gay, and explain why they didn’t want to press for common sense reforms.”

Before the violence Monday, the parade thundered down a Brooklyn thoroughfare with its usual colorful, musical energy.

The annual Labor Day parade celebrates the culture of the Caribbean islands and is one of the city’s largest outdoors events. Modeled on traditional Carnival festivities, it features dancers wearing enormous feathered costumes, music and plenty of food.

“This parade is fabulous!” said Arnold Caballero, who was manning a huge barbecue on a sidewalk. “There are people of all countries, and you meet friends you haven’t seen for years.”

The 52-year-old Trinidad native estimated that by day’s end he would sell about 500 pounds of jerk and curry chicken, beef and pork from the stand he’s run for a decade with two friends.

Caballero’s friend Agnes Cherryl Phillips, a 55-year-old native of Grenada, added: “This is the most excellent parade you can ever have, with music and loved ones who come from all over America, from Miami to Canada.”

High-spirited spectators behind police barricades joined in with impromptu dancing as music pounded from massive loudspeakers aboard floats rumbling through the Crown Heights neighborhood, which also is home to the world headquarters of the Lubavitch Orthodox Jewish community.

Some sat on their porches watching people waving the bright flags of their native islands and enjoying Caribbean delicacies sold by vendors whose barbecues released delicious-smelling smoke into the late summer air.

Antonneal Waldron, 3, was resting on a bench with her parents and 5-month-old brother after strolling the parade route. She summed up the experience in a few words: “Walk, walk, walk! Color, color, color!”

Her mother, Jennifer Waldron, completed the picture, saying, “It’s an American event that represents people of many nations: food, flags, islands, music.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo stopped by a pre-parade breakfast before heading to upstate communities where residents are still cleaning up from Tropical Storm Irene.

“Thank you for sharing your culture, your language, your music, your food, your diversity,” he told organizers.

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