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Our Time Press: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries Calls for FBI Assistance in East New York Manhunt

After a weekend of deadly stabbings in East New York, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries requested assistance from the FBI to assist the NYPD with apprehending a vicious killer that brutally attacked two children at 845 Schenck Avenue, a 6-story building in the Boulevard Houses development. Six-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto died as a result of the attack that took place on Sunday; 7-year-old Mikayla Capers has critical injuries and remains hospitalized. On Friday, 18-year-old nursing student Tanaya Grant was also killed as a result of a violent knife attack on the corner of Linwood Street and Stanley Avenue.

“There is a psychopath on the loose in East New York who can strike again at any moment,” said Rep. Jeffries.

In a letter sent to FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos, Rep. Jeffries noted that the agency is uniquely positioned to provide expertise, resources and technical assistance in connection with the ongoing manhunt.

The congressman said he has received a commitment from the higher levels of One Police Plaza that there is a full deployment of detectives and that they are chasing down every possible lead. “We are supportive of the police,” said Jeffries. “I also have every reason to believe that they would welcome the assistance of other law enforcement agencies working in partnership with the NYPD in order to get the job done.”

Describing East New York as a community “gripped with fear, anxiety and uncertainty because no one knows who is responsible for these heinous and brutal stabbings,” Jeffries said there is a significant possibility that the same psychopathic individual is responsible for the attacks on the children and the nursing student and outlined striking similarities between the two incidents.

“This has been an extremely difficult time for this community,” said Rev. David Brawley, Pastor of St. Paul’s Community Baptist Church. “In light of this tragedy, we do need additional law enforcement resources,” said Brawley, adding, “It is terrible there were no cameras in this development.”

Directly addressing the killer, president of the 75th Precinct Community Council Juan Rodriguez said, “You are an animal; you don’t deserve to be loose in the streets of our community killing our youth. We’re going to get you.”

“East New York is mourning right now. We are in distress because innocence was taken from us,” said Chris Banks, executive director of East New York United Concerned Citizens. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, and with the grace of God, I hope that Mikayla will overcome this incident.”

Immediately after Congressman Jeffries’ press conference, community activist Tony Herbert issued a statement declaring that there should be no federal law enforcement involvement in searching for the killer and called for Jeffries to “apologize to the men and women of the NYPD for basically saying that they are incompetent to handle the investigation of the recent stabbings that has taken two young lives and having another fighting to stay alive in a NYC hospital.”

Herbert characterized Jeffries’ request for FBI assistance as “a cheap shot on the blood of the deceased just to gain some credibility to say that he has his ear on the ground and is involved with the East New York community.”

Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio criticized NYCHA for not installing cameras at the Boulevard Houses and other developments around the city despite having $27 million allocated for camera installation. “They were sitting on the money for a variety of reasons,” said de Blasio as he blamed an “unacceptable bureaucracy” for the delays. The mayor ordered NYCHA to spend the money by the end of the year to install cameras in 49 NYC housing developments.

Rep. Jeffries said the previous administration fell down on the job. “This situation only serves to highlight the urgency of moving with speed to get cameras installed on every NYCHA development in the city of New York,” he said.

Recognizing the potential for a mental health crisis, Jeffries said he spoke to the principals of both schools attended by P.J. and Mikayla “to ensure that they felt they had the resources from the Department of Education related to grief counseling and mental health services” for the friends and classmates of these “two young angels.”

“There is post-traumatic stress disorder that exists in communities where young people have to grow up with violence that can strike at any moment,” explained Jeffries. “This is a strong and resilient community with brilliant young minds who become incredibly productive citizens, but they are doing it under harsh conditions.”

Jeffries clarified referring to the suspect as a psychopath: “There is no other explanation for somebody who can be in an elevator with a 6-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl who are trapped in an enclosed environment, have no place to go and he stabs each of them multiple times to the extent that one is killed and the other is struggling for her life. There is no other way to describe the type of individual responsible for this type of crime.”