Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Double Murder in Crown Heights

What is it like to work all day long in your own little bodega? Mohammed Mansoor Abuzaid opened his own piece of the American dream a few months ago on Utica avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Instead of building his dream, he and his son were killed by masked bandits last night near where I live.

This block is like a little assembly of nations. A lot of West Indians Spanish speakers, Koreans and citizens of various Arab countries work and own shops here. They work long hours trying to pay the rent, distributors and taxes. Many are sending money to relatives back home. Some of the smaller shops keep costs down by employing family. Mr. Abuzaid was working with his son. It has been reported that their indignation at being robbed got the better of their discretion. They were reportedly shot dead for the crime of refusing to habd over their money

These are the second and the third murders in the last month. The previous murder was a woman who was shot dead in her apartment as her five year old played in another room. I am waiting for communal indignation to yield some clues to that crime. The cries of an orphan must surely awaken the mercy of heaven. Will we care enough to find the woman's killer.

Where I live, we absorb a lot about our neighbours. My children used to notice that the guy in the little bodega used to wear the same kind of yarmulka as me, except that in his community it is called a kufi. My wife tells me they had twin boys around the age of one of my sons. The Abuzaid family was Yemeni. There are a few Yemeni stores around that block on Utica. In another store owned by a Yemeni, I stopped and talked about Yemeni and Arab food that we both enjoyed. Another store owner told me when one of my kids tried to buy beer from him. I appreciated having someone out there who cared about someone elses kids .

One of my kids married a Yemenite girl. We love her and her family, and when I'm out on Utica avenue, I have a connected feeling that is deepened by my familial ties. Living in New York is like that. Most of us come closer together and leave the troubles of our respective homelands behind. Whether it's terror in the Middle East or violent elections in Jamaica, we just want things to work.

We hear with mind numbing regularity statistics from the police and from city government that tell us that our eyes deceive us, that crime is down. Nicky Perry, Mr. Abuzaid and his son bear witness with their unavenged blood that the statistics are cheap propaganda.

There are now news trucks and exotic police vehicles crowded into the block of the murder.
It is a healthy sign that the news trucks are here. I saw quite a few police around. Some had white shirts and gold badges. I hope that they will get the help from the community they need to do their jobs.

I have two suggestions in addition to community cooperation with the police in hunting down those who murder our neighbours. One suggestion is practical. The other is more an attempt to honour our dead.

The first suggestion is that of the right to bear arms. I wish Mr. Abuzaid would have been packing heat. The sad ending of his hard life might have been far different if he had not been deprived of the means to defend himself. Criminals are emboldened when those who obey the law are disarmed. We should increase the number of people licenced and trained in the safe use and ownership of firearms. Let criminals wonder if prospective victims might be armed.

The second suggestion is commemorative. Let the sidewalk in front of a murder scene be blocked off for seven days. Let people walk around the place where there was a murder and reflect upon it. A murder leaves a hole in the social fabric. Let it be marked temporarily by a hole in the landscape. When parents lose a child, or children lose a parent, we are all diminished. Let the name and picture of the deceased be put upon the barricades to move passers by to indignation and acts of mercy. It is not only the police or city government that must brig peace to our community. It is us. Sphere: Related Content

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