Deadly Shooting of Young Mother Spurs Community Concern

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Editor's Note: This story was first published in the June edition of the Tremont Tribune, out now.

Family and friends erected a shrine for Claudia Millan on the street corner where she died. (Photo by Jeanmarie Evelly)

Summer started off on a tragic foot this year, as an exceptionally warm Memorial Day weekend saw the horrific and fatal shooting of a young mother in the Bathgate neighborhood.

Claudia Millan, 29, was shot in the head on the corner of Park Avenue and East 178th Street on Sunday, May 29. According to the New York Times, Millan was walking with her 2-year-old son in tow at the time of the incident, which occurred around 10:30 p.m. as she made her way towards her home on E. Tremont Avenue.

The boy, Jah-mere, the youngest of Millan’s four children, was unharmed other than a cut to his leg, the paper reported. Police said this week that there have been no arrests.

Community leaders say the gruesome shooting—which came during a weekend marked by seven other gun deaths across the city—might be a troublesome indicator.

“This is just the beginning,” said Abdul Malik Talib, of the Masjid Adam Mosque on Crotona Avenue, who also runs a youth anti-violence program called F.U.S.E.D. “This is the beginning of a very long slope.”

While overall crime is down across the city, violent crimes like rape and murder have increased since last year, according to NYPD statistics. In the 48th Precinct, there have been four murders since the start of 2011, four times the number compared to this time last year, when there had been none.

Talib said he thinks the change—especially what he sees as an uptick in youth violence—is related to the city’s budget cuts and a slashing of resources in a neighborhood that already has so few.

“This is a direct connection to the funds being taken out of our community,” he said.

Heidi Hynes, director of the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center in Crotona, agreed.

“I think that violence, especially youth violence, is connected to not having positive influences,” she said.

“The budget cuts are going to hit our neighborhoods this year; there are going to be less services for people. Without those wraparound services, it’s harder to have a safe neighborhood.”

Both Hynes and Talib are members of the Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods Campaign, a coalition of neighborhood organizations to reduce violence and increase health through education campaigns and community events.

Hynes started the coalition two years ago with officials from nearby Fordham University, after a shooting took place next to the playground of the Mary Mitchell Center on Mapes Avenue in November 2009 that left an 18-year-old local boy dead.

The coalition has about 20 member organizations involved, Hynes said, including Community Board 6, the Bronx River Art Center, Phipps Community Development Corp., the Department of Education, among others.

At the corner of Park Avenue and East178th Street, where Claudia Millan was shot, a white tent has sprung up, a makeshift memorial sheltering photos, flowers, posters scrawled with messages and candles that were still being lit nearly two weeks after her death.

“Your family misses you,” someone wrote.