DA Gonzalez opens new gun violence unit amid recent shooting spike

DA Gonzalez continues to send people to rikers island
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.
File photo by Colin Mixson

In response to a rash of gun violence throughout the borough this summer, Brooklyn’s top prosecutor has opened a dedicated unit to provide a “laser-like focus” on combating shootings and prosecuting gunmen. 

“With the recent and worrisome spike in gun violence, we must innovate and strengthen our response to all cases against those who carry lethal weapons on our streets,” District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement on Aug. 19. 

The new Gun Violence Suppression Bureau, which will be led by veteran Assistant District Attorney Patrick O’Connor, will increase the office’s resources toward stemming the scourge of violence, while coordinating law enforcement efforts to efficiently target criminals most responsible for the increased volume of shootings.

“The new Gun Violence Suppression Bureau will provide a laser-like focus of our resources and expertise in targeting the small number of individuals who are responsible for most of the gun violence in our community,” Gonzalez said.

Much of the new unit’s work will be dedicated to rooting out more evidence on gun cases, which often prove hard to crack because many are based solely on testimony from just one police officer — and DNA evidence is only recovered in about a third of the cases, making it difficult to conclusively prove that a firearm was used by a specific suspect, according to a law enforcement official. 

On top of solving shooting cases after the fact, the new unit will work with the Police Department to track patterns and attempt to proactively identify possible future shootings and retaliations, according to the DA’s office.

The announcement of the new bureau’s creation comes after a week when grand juries reconvened on Aug. 11 after months of hiatus due to the pandemic, allowing Gonzalez’s office to indict some 36 suspects of violent crimes. 

That slate of defendants includes a murder suspect who allegedly fatally shot two people in East New York on June 27 while disguising himself with a long blonde wig and a surgical mask, and a second-degree murder suspect who allegedly killed one man and shot another in a Brownsville bodega on June 5.

The new unit is also fairly timely, as the past weekend was particularly bloody in Brooklyn — with six people killed and more than 40 others hit by gunfire over the weekend.

While shootings are on the rise across the Five Boroughs, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea singled out Brooklyn on Aug. 18 as the borough most responsible for the increasing numbers. 

“Right now about half of the shootings in New York City, close to, are coming out of Brooklyn, and that’s a big problem,” Commissioner Shea told NY1 on Aug. 17. “When you dig a little deeper and peel the onion back you’re seeing Brooklyn individuals and perpetrators with active gun cases sometimes from Brooklyn committing violence in other parts of the city.”