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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Frustration and grief over a shooting in Hempstead

Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall speaks at a

Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall speaks at a news conference in Mineola on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, to announce a $75,000 reward in the shooting of 12-year-old Dejah Joyner of Hempstead. Hall is accompanied by, from left, Hempstead Police Chief Michael McGowan, acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. Credit: Howard Schnapp

'Sometimes," Mayor Wayne Hall was saying Monday, "I see myself on TV asking people to step forward if they know something about the shootings and then I wait and I see that nobody's calling in."

And that's frustrating for Hall, who leads Hempstead Village, where the community's latest casualty of violence is Dejah Joyner -- who was gunned down Friday in her own home and died Saturday, one year shy of officially being designated a teenager.

A single bullet hole was still visible Monday in the front window of the two-family home on Dartmouth Street, where police say Dejah was an unintended victim.

The block was quiet, from a corner on one end -- where graffiti marred what appeared to be fresh white paint on a boarded-up home -- to a corner on the other -- where the child's parents had been joined by hundreds of residents Sunday evening for a prayer service at Antioch Baptist Church.

Less than a mile away, in Hempstead Village Hall, the mood was somber. And it grew even more so after the mayor, turning toward a laptop on his desk, pulled up a report from the electronic ShotSpotter system.

A few taps of his fingers then isolated a sound: Phahp! One shot. A solo, staccato note.

Followed instantly by a return to silence.

A soundtrack now, to accompany a memory of a single bullet hole that remains near where a child once was.

Residents reported hearing other shots in the neighborhood -- on at least two occasions in the weeks before Dejah was slain.

One was very early in the morning. The other was in the early evening last month.

Nassau police declined to comment on the neighbors' reports, saying only that everything remained under investigation.

Still, if the mayor, in his office, remained visibly angry, sorrowful and frustrated by reports of gunfire, how much of a stretch is it to believe that Dejah could have been frightened by it all?

Or is the more horrifying possibly that the girl with the distinctive laugh, the child always ready to sing or dance, the Girl Scout described by family as "fun-loving, outgoing, full of life," had grown to accept such sounds as background noise?

"Shots are fired in Hempstead all of the time," Hall said. "And you know the sad part? If this were an 18-year-old, people would shrug and go on like nothing happened." Maybe, he said, this time will be different.

One year ago, in Huntington Station, the brutal murder of a high school student, Maggie Rosales, 18 -- the fourth slaying in the community in a little more than 12 months -- ignited anger and ultimately pulled a community together.

Will Dejah's memory do the same for Hempstead? Hall wants to believe, which is why Hempstead has scheduled what he called "A Night of Outrage" in front of village hall Tuesday.

"People turn out and get angry when police are involved in a shooting -- it mystifies me why people don't turn out when it's black on black or brown on brown," he said.

"If we turned out, for every shooting, for every violent death . . . we could turn this thing around," Hall said.

Village and Nassau police will be outside town hall tonight. And Hall, again and in person, will ask residents to report what they've seen to 800-244-8477.

Information anonymous callers share goes to a line in Canada, which funnels it back -- with no identifying information.

Police have received some good leads, but they need more.


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