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Paterson — Letters to the Editor

A Community's "Genesis"

Christopher Fabor Muhammad

Friday, July 11, 2014 • 3:02pm

“Bang, bang! Another shot. Nothing left but another heart …” were the poetic words written by 11 year old Lexie Castillo of Paterson in her Creative Writing workshop in response to the shooting of the innocent 12 year old Genesis Rincon of Paterson, New Jersey.  On July 5, 2014 around 8:30 pm Genesis was on a scooter returning home with two friends from a neighborhood store when a stray bullet intended for someone else fatally struck Genesis in the head.  The child was taken to local St. Joesph hospital where she was kept on life support until they could satisfy donating her body parts. The parents knowing their child’s heart felt that is what Genesis would have wanted.  As a result her organs allowed the lives of 5 people to survive.

The fatal shooting of Genesis Rincon led to an astonishing display of community support for the family and for justice. Genesis is of Dominican descent and just the glimpse of her smile from photo images united the entire city across racial, religious, age and organizational differences.  The family; community organizers, activists and concerned residents took to the streets to urge people to speak up about anything they saw or heard about the incident.  On Tuesday, July 8th at 6:30pm, nearly 1,000 residents of Paterson, New Jersey gathered outside of City Hall to show a united front and give an impressive out cry of “Justice for Genesis!”  Many also spoke out against other senseless killings due to an out of control gun violence amongst the youth in the City of Paterson.  Eric Muhammad questioned how these guns are getting into the hands of youth in our neighborhoods when we don’t manufacture guns.  He also challenged the men of the community to step up to the plate and take charge of their community.  “I call the women and I hear a loud resounding response.  I call on the men and I only hear a tiny whimper! ... That’s the problem!” Eric Muhammad roared.  Families who previously lost loved ones to gun violence also spoke out to remind the community that this could happen to anyone of them and to recognize the importance of the community to come together to put an end to the blood-shed. 

Hours later, the relentless pressure from the community compelled the police to be persistent; the media to be vigilant and for 19 year old Jhymiere Moore of Paterson to voluntarily turn himself into police custody as the shooter.  At 11am on Wednesday, July 9, 2014, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office held a Press Conference announcing the arrest.  Mr. Moore was charged with 1st degree murder carrying up to a life sentence as well as 1st and 2nd degree unlawful possession of a weapon charges which both carry a maximum of 10 years each.  Bail was set for $2 million dollars cash only.  The investigation in this case is ongoing for any possibility of more persons involved in this tragedy.  Mayor Joey Torres of Paterson gave condolences to the family and appreciation to the police department for working with the community to bring the previously unknown assailant to justice. Passaic County Prosecutor’s Deputy Chief Fulco and Paterson Acting Chief of Police Fraher both gave an overview of where most of the violent shootings and homicides were taking place in Paterson known as “Hot Spots.” They cited that 20% of the victims are between the ages of 20 – 25 and 10% of the victims were between the ages 15 – 19.  From Saturday night into Sunday mornings are when the highest amount of incidents are occurring.  36% percent of the total incidents are from the 4th ward where Genesis resided.  In a city as diverse as Paterson the worst area plagued by gun violence was the 4th of the total six Wards.  The 4th Ward is an area where African Americans predominantly reside.  According to Prosecutor Camelia Valdez by the end 2010 there were 43 shootings and by the end of 2013 there were 91 shootings.  She stated that the average number of homicides in Paterson, NJ usually range between 20 and 23 per year.  In this year 2014 alone there has already been 10 homicides and 53 nonfatal shootings.  In 2010 there were a total of 40 nonfatal shootings.  One day prior to Genesis being shot there was another shooting in the same area.  Investigators are unsure if the two shootings were related.  The intended target of the shooting in Genesis’s case was unknown at the time of the press conference.  Officials are encouraging any who have information regarding the ongoing aspect of this case to come forward even anonumously. 

Prosecutor Valdez noted that there has been a rise in gun violence in the City of Paterson over the past few years.  Focus on police layoffs and budget cuts were cited as issues of concern.  Mayor Torres stated utilization of camera technology called “shot spot” which has the capability to locate the source of gun fire within 5 foot of its discharge.   He also stated 26 new officers will take employment at the end of the month and that his administration has also applied for a grant to get 15 additional police men and women with “boots on the ground.”  

There has been organizations and activists in Paterson trying to mobilize the community to support their Stop the Violence efforts who now see greater hope and a renewed spirit toward the work of stopping the violence and improving the lives and conditions for their historic city.  Mas Lawson a community leader of Paterson’s Stop the Violence Movement stated, “Until the violence stops, we won’t stop. We cannot give up on our youth no matter what. Let’s continue our work and continue to pray for both Genesis Rincon’s and Jhymiere Moore’s families.”  Genesis’s father Alexis Rincon said, “Before I wanted to leave Paterson; I hated it! But now after all of this I feel like I have to stay.  I can’t leave.  I feel a sense of purpose.  I’m not afraid.  I’m not scared. This is my city!” 

Many feel this was a triumph for the city, although Genesis’s physical life came to an end, but Genesis means “Beginning” and in death she has given hope to a new beginning for her community to hopefully rebuild itself. 

 

Written by Christopher Fabor Muhammad, July 10, 2014

 

 

 

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