The NYPD joined mourning family members Sunday for an emotional walk from the Bronx to Manhattan to remember the victims of homicide.
“I’ve been to too many shootings of kids,” NYPD Assistant Commissioner of Youth Strategies Kevin O’Connor told amNewYork Metro as he led the charge. “We can talk about a mother that was walking her baby in a stroller on 95th Street and Lexington, shot and killed by a jealous ex-boyfriend. Now there’s too many cases to talk about. But I’ve been doing this for nearly 35 years and it doesn’t get any easier.”
O’Connor hasn’t been jaded by the over three decades in the department, he feels every child’s death and he says he is committed to help preventing as many loses as he can for as many families as he can.
Congress enacted the National Day of Remembrance for homicide victims in 2007, and since then, O’Connor has helped set up the local remembrance walks as way for the NYPD to stand alongside the community in mourning of the lives taken far too soon, as well as hold space with advocacy organizations which are available to help counsel those suffering grief.
“We are part of the community. These are our communities, we patrol them, we serve them, we protect them. And unfortunately, even with all the efforts we have, we still have people getting shot and killed from this gun violence, but we feel their pain. One of the families walking with us is 11-year-old Kyhara Tay, who was killed in the Bronx. We can’t even fathom the pain of her family. So, we’re just trying to support them in any way we can,” O’Connor said.
Tay’s family walked with signs, clearly still carrying unimaginable pain with every stride. For the Tay family this pain is so very fresh, having lost the pre-teen in May. But according to those who have suffered similar losses decades in the past, it doesn’t get any easier.
Ella Thomas of Harlem Mothers Fathers S.A.V.E–a violence prevention organization–lost her two sons during the 1990s and she strives on to honor them but hoping to prevent the deaths of others.
“I’ve lost two boys to gun violence–1991 and 1996. One case was solved 1996, the other still a cold case 1991 and I raise his son,” Thomas said.
The walk began in the Bronx and met up with other community members from Harlem and Queens until they made it to City Hall. O’Connor estimates about 200 individuals joined them for the walk to remember.