Fordham Heights is a community where murders and shootings have decreased steeply since the 1990s, but it doesn’t always feel that way.
In some ways, it’s a pocket apart from the affluence and saftey that mark much of the city today.
On Wednesday, it was the Bronx neighborhood where police officer and mother of three Miosotis Familia, 48, was shot in the head by fellow Bronx resident Alexander Bonds, 34, who lived not far away.
NYPD commissioner James O’Neill called it an “unprovoked” attack, the kind of assassination reminiscent of the slaying of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in 2014 at the hands of a suicidal man who came north from Baltimore to do the deed. As in 2014, the alleged killer was reportedly in a mentally unstable state, and his social media accounts show a deep anger towards police officers — in this case, Bonds filmed a September 2016 video denigrating officers’ bad behavior and noting “I don’t care about 100 police watching this,” and “we gotta do something.”
Bonds spent years in state prison for robbery, among other crimes. The video shows him saying there “ain’t nothing cool about jail.” Elsewhere, he lists “Attica” as his place of education.
He writes about the importance of voting as well as difficulties of life on the inside. When people ask him “why you never smile,” he says it’s because “I don’t consider life to be a joke.”
Life may have been hard for Bonds, and maybe something finally snapped for him, leading him to take a gun to the female officer sitting unawares in a mobile command unit near Morris Avenue and 183rd Street.
But life is difficult for others in the neighborhood, partially due to the gun violence the mobile command unit was there to prevent. It had been there since March, said O’Neill, after gang-related and other shootings in the area.
Residents say the violence is serious and perhaps feels worse than the official numbers.
For Joe Diaz, 52, the problem is so severe that he thinks all stores should close at 10 p.m. Then fewer people would be outside and there would be less violence.
There are incidents beyond the drugs and drug-related fights. Blocks from the shooting was the residence of Jose Gonzalez, the man accused of stealing and driving the ambulance that dragged and killed EMT Yadira Arroyo earlier this year. Just south along Grand Concourse is Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, where a gunman and doctor shot and killed one of his fellows and wounded others last week.
‘A really sad story’
“Not much has changed in 40 years,” said Jose Morales, 54, on 183rd Street. Maybe just the cost of the drugs, which only makes things worse.
The police department has tried to combat the violence, sometimes through tactics that some residents see as harassment. “They bother you about where you can stand,” says Michael Smith, 29. Or whether you can sit outside certain apartment buildings.
None of that, of course, is a reason to commit murder. “Some people are off the wall,” Smith says.
In the end, Familia fell victim to such a person. She was killed by a gun that shouldn’t have been on the street, while posted to prevent the kind of gun violence she died from.
On a night meant to celebrate Independence Day, she became another casualty in the neighborhood, and, it seems, yet another targeted police officer. Many residents could only shake their heads or grimace at the news, no matter how difficult or sometimes dangerous life in the neighborhood could be.
Many echoed the way Jason Rodriguez, 23, put it, sitting outside a Morris Avenue grocery store trying to make sense of the officer’s death. “It’s a really sad story,” he said. “Nobody in his right mind is just going to go up and kill.”
Please stand by for an important annoucement
amExpress will be suspended on Fridays throughout the summer. Enjoy your weekend!