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Officials: Pair charged in fatal July '20 shooting of baby in Brooklyn park

Davell Gardner, 1, died after he was hit

Davell Gardner, 1, died after he was hit by a bullet as he sat in a stroller at a playground in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn last July. Credit: Kings County District Attorney

Two alleged Brooklyn gang members face murder charges for the shooting death last summer of a 1-year-old boy at a party in a Bedford-Stuyvesant park, officials said Thursday.

The shocking nature of the crime — a baby fatally shot while in a stroller — served as a painful reminder of a year of unrelenting city gun violence that continues 10 months later.

Dashawn Austin, 25, and Akeem Artis, 24, alleged members of the Hoolies gang, are accused of killing the 1-year-old, Davell Gardner, who was struck in the abdomen by a single round as he sat in the stroller at the Raymond Bush Playground during an evening block party July 12, according to Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. The two men and 15 others were in custody late Thursday, officials said.

Austin was charged while in custody for a different case. Artis was arrested and charged Thursday, officials said.

Speaking at a news conference in which he and NYPD officials announced the indictment of 16 other suspected members of the Hoolies, Gonzalez said Austin is accused of firing the shot took the life of Davell. Artis is accused of being the driver of the car that brought Austin to the vicinity of the park.

In total, the 63-count indictment charged 18 alleged Hoolies members with a variety of crimes, four homicides between December 2018 and September 2020, as well as eight shootings in which seven innocent bystanders were wounded, Gonzalez said.

"The insidious gang violence as alleged in this case has taken and traumatized far too many lives, including many innocents such as Davell — a bright and loved baby boy with his whole life ahead of him," Gonzalez said in a statement.

The Hoolies, a gang centered in Bedford-Stuyvesant, had been in a long, bloody feud with the rival 900 Street gang, whose members were the subject of an earlier police takedown and arrests in January, authorities said.

The night Davell died, Hoolies members drove to the park with the intention of shooting members of the rival gang they had heard might be there, Gonzalez said. One car was to block any police, another was a chase car that would speed off and draw away cops to pursue it, while the remaining car was to carry the shooter and driver, Gonzalez said.

A surveillance video captured Austin firing rounds and fleeing the area, Gonzalez said. Three other men in the park who were not gang members were wounded, the NYPD said at the time

The baby's death came as shootings started to escalate, hitting heavily Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the Bronx, according to police statistics. By the end of 2020, shootings hit the highest level since around 2006.

Current shooting trends are actually exceeding where the violence was last year at this time. On Thursday, NYPD Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes announced that cops will be placed at the 100 most active shooting streets in the city as one strategy to cut down the violence.

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