Flatbush Avenue was as busy as ever on a mild afternoon last month when three lives intersected amid a burst of gunfire.
Thirteen-year-old Gama Droiville, a choirboy at the French Speaking Baptist Church, waited for the bus with his aunt around noon on April 14. Moments later, Brooklyn prosecutors said that a second man, identified as 24-year-old Eduardo Dolphy, emerged from a car just as bullets were fired. The alleged gunman was 20-year-old Kareem Potomont, who has pleaded not guilty to charges, including attempted murder in the second degree, assault and other charges and is being held on $200,000 bail. His mother has been trying to post the bail for a month.
Droiville was shot in the right eye. Dolphy was wounded in his leg.
Potomont, who will turn 21 next month, has denied involvement in the incident and his lawyer, Audrey Thomas, said he is not "admitting that he had anything to do with the shooting."
The alleged shooter said in a May 8 interview inside the Brooklyn Detention Complex with amNewYork that he, in fact, had been a victim of violence and bullying himself and feared for his personal safety. Thomas indicated this will form the basis for Potomont's defense."I just wish I wasn't here, I wasn't involved in this whole predicament," Potomont, told amNewYork. "I know I've got a long way to go," referring to his legal battle.
A fateful day
Brooklyn prosecutors said on April 14, Potomont waited on Flatbush Avenue near Beverly Road for someone to emerge from a vehicle. He allegedly started shooting once he saw that person -- identified by police as Dolphy. A surveillance video of the incident was distributed by police in the days following and Potomont was identified as the alleged gunman three days later. He was arrested the next day.
Police did not say if a firearm was recovered.
Droville, who was shot twice in the head and right eye, told amNewYork last week that doctors said he will likely never see out of his eye again. He spent eight days at Kings County Hospital.
Dolphy was treated and released from Kings County Hospital for his leg wound and said he has recovered from the injury.
Potomont, speaking from a dingy interview room at the Brooklyn Detention Complex, said he was the victim of a yearslong attack by youths in the Flatbush neighborhood where he grew up. He said Dolphy was the leader.
Potomont said the bullying started within a week of returning from a juvenile facility in upstate New York where he said he spent about a year and a half. The details of his juvenile record are sealed. A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn District Attorney's office said he doesn't appear to have an adult criminal record.
"If I'm standing there too long it would be a fight between me and someone," he said. Then his friend, who he said used to protect him, was shot and died in front of him. It got worse from there. The circumstances surrounding this incident are unclear and he declined to identify the friend. He said he doesn't like to talk about it.
He said he was robbed of his sneakers, his designer belts and his cellphones. Once, he said, someone tried to stab him but he saw the knife and ran.
"As the years started to go on, guns started to get involved. Would come back you down? point the gun to you and then someone would come go into your pockets. If you got on something that they liked, they would take it from you," Potomont said. Gangs were involved, he said, but it wasn't about that. "It was hate."
The last straw
A few days before the Flatbush Avenue shooting, Potomont said he was walking home from a local store when Dolphy and two other men jumped out of a car and put a gun to his back.
"They told me 'Turn around.' I just stood there," he recalled. "Threatening me like he was about to kill me, like right then and there.
"Then I heard a police siren ? they started to draw back. They said that 'you're lucky,'" he said. "I went home and I was just -- I felt like I was on my last straw."
Potomont did not report the alleged incident to police because young minority men in his neighborhood have a distrust of the NYPD, his lawyer, Thomas, said.
Dolphy denied that he ever harassed anyone and said he barely knew Potomont before.
"That man is lying, I don't know what he's talking about. I never bullied anyone," he said. "This is insane. Besides seeing him in the neighborhood, no, I did not know him."
Dolphy has two separate cases pending in Brooklyn Supreme Court: one in which he allegedly forged Visa gift cards and drove with a suspended license and one in which he allegedly slashed a man's face with a box cutter, causing gash several inches long from his ear to chin. It took about 50 stitches to patch up, according to court records. Dolphy pleaded not guilty in the assault case, said his lawyer, Martin Geduldig. He pleaded not guilty in the other case as well, said a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn District Attorney.
Droiville, a quiet teen who also grew up in Flatbush, said he just has one thing to say to Potomont: "Jesus loves you and I forgive you."
Potomont faces up to 25 years in prison for the attempted murder charge, the Brooklyn District Attorney said in a statement. His next court date is July 9.