By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,

Brooklyn Homes residents gathered Sept. 7 for a city-organized question-and-answer session and summary of the After Action Report (AAR), which was released Aug. 30 in the wake of the July 2 mass shooting at the public housing complex. About 250 people showed up to the Bay Brook Elementary/Middle School cafeteria, where the meeting was held, including members of the Baltimore Police Department, Safe Streets staff and numerous city officials.

“This is really about listening and learning,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott before the event. “[Residents] can talk about what they see in that report, what they want and━working on a community compact with them━how we work together to make the neighborhood safer.”

Each table at the meeting contained a community compact agenda – one of the recommendations listed in the AAR – and two paperback versions of the AAR. Cameras were limited and recording was barred to make the meeting a “safe space” for residents.

During the Q&A portion, residents lined up to highlight the trauma they still live with from the Brooklyn Day mass shooting, seeking real change. 

“It’s not a book to us. It’s every day for us,” said Ashley Johnson, 28, a resident of Brooklyn Homes, referring to the AAR laid on each table during the meeting.

Brooklyn Day is a summer gathering organized by locals of Brooklyn Homes that is known to draw hundreds of people, according to the report. The party included food, music and activities for families and children.

One mother said she and her children are so traumatized by the shooting that her teen daughter is scared to sleep in her own bed and her 6-year-old is afraid to go to school. She said she was one of the residents who helped shelter those trying to flee the scene during and after the shooting.

Another resident said she approves of what the city has done thus far but said it will take the whole community to solve this issue.

“It takes a village,” said Charlene Bowie, a seven-year resident of Brooklyn Homes. “Our children have no hope, no faith. We must come together – help each other with the smaller issues so things do not resort to guns.”

In contrast, Johnson believes that the city is doing the bare minimum.

“Elected officials should ensure our safety and wellbeing and protect everybody. It’s your job. We voted for you,” she said.

Acting Baltimore City Police Commissioner Richard Worley, President and CEO of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) Janet Abrahams, and Mark Mason of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement all summarized their agencies’ portions of the report before the Q&A and provided a slide show for the community members. 

Each agency detailed its part in the mass shooting and its aftermath, and what they have done to improve its protocols and ensure that “officer indifference” and an overall lack of communication does not happen again. 

Worley primarily focused on the Baltimore Police Department’s (BPD) shortcomings leading up to the incident. He highlighted that BPD officers relied too heavily on social media instead of getting information directly from community members. 

“BPD can and will do better in the future,” said Worley. 

According to the report, on June 28 at 1 p.m., an Instagram post was discovered with a flyer titled “Brooklyn Saturday.” No officers followed up with the post to get further information. They also received a flyer in hand on the day of the block party. 

At 9:41 p.m. on July 1, there was a 911 call that said, “hundreds of males and females are armed with guns and knives,” but there were no immediate responses. After 10:14 p.m., an officer responded, “We may have to redirect that call to the National Guard then.” The dispatcher later responded that no officers were available, which was not true, according to Worley.

Though officer shortage is a general issue for BPD, in this scenario, Worley confirmed that there was no officer shortage that night. Some officers were told not to engage due to their safety and some chose not to escalate the situation to supervisors and commanders.

Worley found it troubling that the officers did not inform supervisors or commanders, knowing they could not handle those issues themselves. 

In some situations, the information was reported but no supervisor followed up. A Citiwatch personnel called at 10:15 p.m. about a large crowd, but it went unanswered.

Moving forward, Worley said, district commanders will be required to leave information for the next commanders so they have an idea of what happened in previous years. Maj. Sam Hood was replaced by Capt. Jason Bennett in the Southern District. Hood was not named in the report but was confirmed to be removed from his position by Worley.

Abrahams directly acknowledged HABC’s fault regarding the lack of trust and adequate communication between the agency and its tenants. Brooklyn Homes is HABC’s property.

“HABC should have known,” said Abrahams. “The trust wasn’t there.” 

The report does show that residents appeared to be less than upfront about the event and appeared to be trying to hide it by quickly taking down the social media flyer BPD found.

Abrahams highlighted that HABC has completed hiring third-party security guards and updated their guidelines to ensure prior written approval of a resident- or third-party-run event within HABC common areas. 

Mason presented actions and plans from Aug. 19 to Sept. 30 that MONSE has enacted and will continue to do in Brooklyn to continue assisting the community and expand their services to older citizens.

He did not acknowledge any wrongdoing for Safe Streets personnel’s failure to report the event to city officials.

Just a day before the meeting, at approximately 4:27 p.m., a 23-year-old male and two 18-year-old males were shot on 5th Street and Patapsco Avenue in Brooklyn. One of the 18-year-olds was found in critical condition.

“We know that folks are still currently solving their disputes with guns,” said Scott. “I see work to change the district’s culture [which] we want to see balanced.”

Residents did not raise particular concerns on this issue at the meeting.

Worley confirmed that they are still looking for about six suspects. Anyone with any information leading to arrests may be eligible for an $88,000 award.

The second city council hearing on the Brooklyn Day incident will occur on Sept. 13 at 1 p.m.