When a hail of gunfire tore through a crowded Brooklyn courtyard in the early hours of Labor Day last year, Carey Gabay ducked between two parked cars for cover.
Gabay, a Bronx-born, Harvard educated attorney who worked as first deputy general counsel at the Empire State Development and as an aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, was among those nearby when the shooting began outside the Ebbets Field Houses in Crown Heights. A single round struck him in the top of the head; he died about a week later.
According to Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, the shooters fired as many as three dozen bullets from as many as eight separate weapons. Gabay’s death was an ugly capstone to J’ouvert, a celebration of Jamaican and Caribbean culture, held every year before the West Indian Day Parade.
At a press conference today, Thompson announced three new indictments in the case, which prompted Governor Cuomo to say that “anybody who doesn’t believe we need to do something about gun control is delusional.”
Micah Alleyne, 24, of Jamaica, Queens, Tyshawn Crawford, 21, of East New York, and Keith Luncheon, 24, of Crown Heights, were all charged with “depraved indifference murder” for their role in what became a fierce gun battle between rival gangs, according to the D.A.
A long running rivalry between the Folk Nation gang, who hold sway in the Ebbets Field Houses, and 8-Trey, a faction of Crips, led to the fighting when the groups encountered each other and started shooting, Thompson said.
“Carey Gabay was a victim of a war between two gangs here in Brooklyn,” Thompson said, as family members of the young attorney looked on. “When they see each other, there is no talking. Just shooting.”
Thompson described a scene of “absolute pandemonium” as more than 20 members of rival factions squared off, with Folk Nation crew members firing from a patio of the building and 8-Trey members returning fire from the street, where a crowd had gathered to celebrate J’ouvert.
The theory of law Thompson’s office is relying on for the indictments allows the single round that killed Gabay to be tied to three different men. Under the “depraved indifference” theory, whether the three men intentionally shot Gabay is irrelevant. And of course, all three of them couldn’t have shot him, since he was only struck once. But in firing into a crowded scene, the D.A. alleges, they showed a “depraved indifference” to human life that was “so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so devoid of regard of the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy’ as to render the actor as culpable as one whose conscious objective is to kill,’” to quote from earlier case law on the subject.
The charge carries a penalty of 25 years to life. These three indictments come on top of a fourth, of Stanley Elianor, 25, of Brownsville, who was charged with weapons offenses last October in connection with the same incident.
Thompson said his office hadn’t been able to link the round that killed Gabay to any particular firearm. The charges today stem from the belief that the three were wielding guns on the night of the shooting, based on surveillance footage, their own statements, and statements from witnesses. Thompson also warned that other charges might follow, suggesting that anyone who fired a gun that night would be held similarly responsible for Gabay’s killing.
The three men represent both sides of the alleged gang rivalry, with Alleyne allegedly a member of Folk Nation, and Luncheon an alleged 8-Trey member. The third defendant, Crawford, was allegedly associated with a separate gang called Hoodstarz, which is in turn affiliated with Folk Nation.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the incident would inform how they handle J’ouvert celebrations going forward.
“This will be a very different festival this year,” Bratton said. “It will be permitted for the first time, with significant limitations and restrictions. It will be significantly policed, as it always has been, but even more so.”
Thompson took pains to make a distinction between the violence last year and the J’ouvert celebration itself, saying that the festival is a peaceful and positive event in which the shooters did not take part. He largely brushed off a reporter’s question about whether the incident, which occurred at a known gang hotspot, might have been avoided with a heavier police presence, but promised that they would “do things differently” in the future. Thompson and Bratton said they would be installing additional lighting around the event location and posting more officers. The D.A. also pointed to what he characterized as a sustained effort by his office against Brooklyn gangs, including the indictment of eighteen alleged members of Folk Nation in February of this year.
Bratton also pledged that his department would be monitoring alleged members of the rival gangs between now and this year’s festivities.
“If so much as a sneeze comes out of any one of these gang members in the weeks running up,” Bratton said, “We will be there. And not to say gesundheit.”