At about 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 25, police found lifelong Astoria Houses resident Tysheen Davis, 23, dead from a gunshot wound to the face in the lobby of 4-03 Astoria Boulevard.
A source close to the case said the suspected gunman, 19-year-old Lacorey Johnson, and Davis knew each other prior to the incident.
Johnson was arrested on Monday, March 26, and charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon.
In response to the shooting, Tenant Association President Claudia Coger called for a press conference with Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. and other community members in front of the East River Development Alliance headquarters at 4-25 Astoria Boulevard to address the issue later that week.
“We have lost too many young lives to illegal guns,” Vallone said in response to the shooting. “Yes, we need more cops, but we need the community to continue to find new ways to work together and with the police to keep our kids safe.
“If you see a gun, say something,” he said.
In a separate interview last week, Christopher Cutter, interim executive director at Zone 126, a nonprofit organization that received a $500,000 federal grant to work with 25 partners to provide services to Astoria Houses residents agreed that the gun violence problem in the neighborhood needs to be addressed.
Among the 25 partners are Vallone and the Astoria Variety Boys and Girl's Club, which is located two blocks from the Zone 126 headquarters.
“What we want to see ultimately is the 1,500 children in our zone to be supported every single year of their life, from zero all the way until the day they graduate college,” Cutter said of the program.
When children do not have support networks, such as caring and present adults and a quality education program, they are more likely to engage in criminal activity later in life, he said.
Cutter said the argument could be made that "if a child doesn't have the right supports by five years old, and falls behind in elementary school, his or her chances of dropping out before graduating high school are pretty high, and once you drop out of school, the risk of youth getting involved in violence and ending up in either prison or dead goes way up.”
The program's mission is for each of the 25 partners to, in the next year, organize a “pipeline” of services, including training sessions for parents, to help Astoria Houses youth.
In the mean time, Zone 126 hosts community dinners, work groups and advisory council meetings. He said community input is extremely valuable, and likewise, residents want to provide it.
While education is the leading tool to combat gun violence, Cutter said if kids are having problems at home, it makes school ineffective.
“If there's violence in the neighborhood, or the kids aren't eating enough - the basic survival things - then you can't even think about homework,” he said. “Research just shows all over the place, having caring adults is everything.”
While the 114th Precinct reports about five homicides a year, a relatively low number compared to New York City's violent history, “what is a gun problem?” Cutter asked.
“Violent crimes, including murder, will happen every year, always, unless we figure this pipeline out," he said.
The next Zone 126 community dinner will be held on Thursday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 171. The next work group will be held on Wednesday, April 25, at 5:30 p.m. in P.S. 171.
Photo: Peter Vallone's office