Bedford-Stuyvesant Democratic Candidate for state senate Rev. Conrad Tillard this week put out an urgent message to the young people in the district of the importance of respecting life and property even when there are differences.
Tillard’s call to action came following the Monday shooting at a Bed-Stuy McDonalds on Fulton Street near Throop Avenue, in which Michael Morgan, 20, allegedly shot fast-food worker Matthew Webb, 23, in a dispute over french fries. As this story goes to post, Webb is reportedly brain dead and on life support.
Following the incident that occurred at about 7 p.m. on a major commercial thoroughfare, police arrested Webb, who has an extensive rap sheet. Also arrested was his 18-year-old girlfriend, Camellia Dunlap on weapon possession charges for allegedly running off with the gun after the shooting.
Tillard went to the McDonalds the morning after the shooting to comfort workers and local residents and decry the violence. He said he has often met with local residents both formally and informally at the McDonalds over coffee and food before the shooting as it is a popular meet-up place for resident conversations.
“We have a gun crisis, but we also have a crisis of values. We’ve got to get back to teaching young people respect for life and respectful property and each other,” said Tillard, who has four children and was the head pastor at the Nazarene Congregation Church in Bed-Stuy for 11 years.
“That’s very important. And I’ll be using my bully pulpit as the senator to make sure that message to the young people is reinforced,” he added.
Tillard, who has spent a good part of his life working to counter violence in the Black community, particularly among the young, also took his opponent Senator Jabari Brisport to task for not addressing Black on Black violence which has been escalating across the city.
In Tillard’s view there needs to be increased outreach and education to the Black youth in the community as well as an increased need for more bail reform and police presence. He has a long track record of being present in the Black community and working on a grassroots level through both his church work and on the street.
Brisport, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, who believes in defunding the police, did not issue any statement following the shooting or mention the shooting on social media.
Also taking heat for any lack of response to the shooting was City Council Member Chi Ossé, who also represents the area and believes in defunding the police. Following the shooting both Ossé and Brisport had social media posts about a missing teen in Fort Greene, but nothing about the shooting.
I think that’s [the McDonald’s shooting] is a perfect example of how important it is not only to show up at the scene but to be present to the needs,” said former Bed-Stuy City Council Member Robert Cornegy, who often held press conferences and vigils at crime scenes when in office. “So it’s less about being there and more about him (Ossé) being present to the needs of that constituency, which is against gun violence. Leadership should be counted as a beacon of hope. I think it’s important. And without that, we’re not a community. We have to know that our leadership is present to the issues that are important in our community. And that’s just one example.”
Cornegy also noted that Ossé’s presence in the community, particularly among the youth, would carry additional weight because the council member is 23.
“That age demographic literally has been largely and negatively impacted by gun violence. So in circumstances like this certainly leadership that is the same demographic being present would resonate,” said Cornegy.
Osse’s office confirmed the council member did not go to the site of the shooting, which is about five blocks from his office, and that he is on a much-needed vacation.
“We are aware of and devastated by the horrific shooting that took place at a Bed-Stuy McDonald’s this week. While we continue to wait for all the details to become clear, we pray for the victim’s swift recovery,” Osse’s office said in a statement. “We are outraged that a disagreement resulted in bloodshed – and we refuse to accept this as normal in our community. Our office is committed to supporting the family of the victim, and investing in cure violence organizations and community-strengthening initiatives to build the Bed-Stuy free of violence that we deserve.”
Brisport, who had nobody answer his senate office phone during business hours when it was called, finally got back to PoliticsNY at the end of the day, Thursday. “We must actively fight for the policies that actually build public safety and widespread community stability, particularly those outlined in the BPHA’s [New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus] 10-point public safety plan,” he said through a spokesperson.
The spokesperson said Brisport allocated $150k of discretionary spending to several violence interrupter programs and will be gathering with neighbors in support of the family and community healing today at 6 p.m.