Five shot at unofficial Caribbean J’Ouvert celebration

Police look for evidence at the scene where five people were shot during a J’ouvert celebration in Crown Heights.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

New York police said five people were shot, including a 6-year-old boy, early Monday morning during an unofficial Caribbean J’Ouvert celebration in Brooklyn.

In view of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Brooklyn-based J’Ouvert City International, Inc., organizers of the annual Caribbean J’Ouvert celebrations, cancelled all street celebrations this year, planning a virtual celebration instead.

The Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) — which organizes the annual, massive Caribbean carnival parade on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway on Labor Day Monday, which follows J’Ouvert — also cancelled the celebration and held virtual events.

However, many took to the streets of Brooklyn for J’Ouvert on Labor Day, despite official warnings to stay away and the ubiquitous presence of police.

Police said a barrage of gunshots were fired shortly before 3 a.m. on Sept. 7, at the intersection of Nostrand Avenue and Crown Street, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.

Police said the 6-year-old boy was shot in his left leg and rushed to the nearby, sprawling Kings County Hospital in Central Brooklyn, with non-life-threatening injuries.

The child’s mother, Patricia Brathwaite, 47, and three men — all adults — were also shot in either their feet or legs and were hospitalized, police said.

Terence A. Monahan, chief of detectives of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) said that two men were arrested in connection with the shootings and that two guns were recovered.

He said on Twitter that the investigation was still “ongoing.”

Brathwaite subsequently told reporters that she was shot in her foot.

“I got out of the cab, was coming home, and a group of people were walking down the block, and I was waiting for them to pass, and somebody started to shoot,” she said.

“I just got shot, and I turned around; my son was on the ground,” she added. “I didn’t see anyone pull a gun or shooting the gun.”

Police believe the shooting was gang-related.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, and the God Squad, a group of Brooklyn clergy headed by United States Virgin Islands native Pastor Gilford Monrose, said they had been urging the community to remain peaceful during the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Williams said he was deeply troubled by the non-sensical shootings.

“It’s a sign of weakness to shoot in a crowd,” he said. “I wish those few hundred people who were here just stayed home like the rest of their neighbors did, and we ask folks to celebrate in small groups with family and friends.

“Had they done that, we may be having a different story,” he added.

Earlier, Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, tweeted: “This #LaborDay, it saddens me to celebrate J’Ouvert and the West Indian Day Carnival virtually, but we must do all we can to stay safe.

“Let’s social distance, wear masks and celebrate our culture from home,” said the representative for the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

Trinidadian Yvette Rennie, president of J’Ouvert City International, Inc., said she was “very proud of our cultural lovers, who respected the rules and regulations and did not come out on the streets J’Ouvert morning.

“We are proud of all of you, and so are our ancestors,” she said. “However, those who decided to come out without taking into consideration of the nature of our setting, and hiding under the umbrella of culture, shame on you!”

Over the years, Caribbean J’Ouvert has been marred by gun violence near the parade route.

In 2015, a legal aide to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was fatally shot in the crossfire between rival gangs during the celebration.

The incident prompted the NYPD to move the J’Ouvert start time from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., and to increase police presence and install metal detectors along the parade route.