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Gang ties eyed as possible motive in Brownsville shooting, NYPD says

NYPD investigators at the scene Sunday in Brownsville,

NYPD investigators at the scene Sunday in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where a man was fatally shot Saturday night and 11 others were injured. Photo Credit: Todd Maisel

Some victims of a weekend Brownsville shooting that left a reputed Bloods member from Brooklyn dead have ties to street gangs, officials said Monday, and the NYPD is investigating the connection as a possible motive for the bloodshed.

Twelve people, men and women ranging from 21 to 55, were struck by bullets fired from at least two assailants shortly before 11 p.m. Saturday during a gathering at Brownsville Playground known as Old Timers Day, an event that for decades has been untouched by violence, according to police.

Jason Pagan, 38, of Brooklyn, a reputed Bloods gang member, died at the Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center shortly after being shot, police said. Another man was critically wounded but his condition had been upgraded to serious Monday, police said.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said a number of those wounded had what he called “gang histories,” although he wouldn’t elaborate.

“Whether that played a role in the shooting has yet to be determined,” Shea told reporters at a briefing attended by NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and other police brass.

O’Neill said the investigation was still in the preliminary stages and police didn’t know if Pagan was the primary target of the gunfire. O’Neill said it also had not been determined if alcohol consumption was a factor. A number of summonses were given about two blocks away from the playground for disorderly conduct, the police commisioner said.

Violence marring the venerable summer event sparked outrage among elected officials. The gathering has been a staple of Brownsville for nearly 50 years, where those who moved away traditionally return for a weekend of music, food and socializing.

Late Monday, a number of community groups, as well as city Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, gathered at the Brownsville Recreation Center to rally and march against gun violence. 

Brownsville resident Otis Walls, 76, said he finished a motivational speech on the stage at Saturday’s event 15 minutes before the shooting.

“We have people in the community that are concerned and we want to make sure everyone knows what’s going on,” said Walls, who has helped host the event for the past several years.

Walls said crime is not a major problem on the block near the playground because it regularly hosts community events.

“This spot was always peaceful," Walls said.

The NYPD said in light of the Saturday shooting, additional officers were at the rally.

“They don’t want to be defined by this,” said O’Neill about the Brownsville community's reaction to the shooting. “This event will continue. It means a lot to residents who used to live there and moved away. This is the opportunity for them to come back and see their friends.”              

Initial reports said there were at least two shooters but Shea wouldn’t say how many were involved. O’Neill noted that in the 73rd Precinct neighborhood where the shooting occurred, 50 percent of recent shootings were gang related, an indication that gang ties were being eyed as a possible catalyst.

In recent months, the NYPD has taken a number of steps to stay on top of gangs, notably through arrests and programs like Ceasefire, in which gang members are required to keep in close contact with probation officials and can be ordered to stay away from certain neighborhoods. But police also think that much more needs to be done to give potential gang members things to do and programs to keep them out of trouble.

“This is bigger than the NYPD," O'Neill said. "We need to find more things for at-risk youth."

With Li Yakira Cohen

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