Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the state to reform the parole system, after the shooting death of a 10 year-old bystander in Queens shocked the city.
Fifth-grader Justin Wallace was shot and killed Saturday night in Queens when an unknown man stopped in front of his aunt’s home and fired multiple rounds, hitting the boy and his adult cousin. The adult victim is expected to survive, but Wallace died in the hospital.
“It was horrible. A ten-year-old child who should be alive today, should be in school right now, killed by a cowardly, horrible human being who fired gunshots just randomly into a home,” de Blasio said at his press conference on Monday. “The pain that Justin’s parents are feeling right now, no parent should ever go through that. No one should ever experience that.”
Photos of the victim showed a short, smiling boy in glasses and colorful sneakers. Heartbroken family members said Wallace was a smart, friendly child who loved building things and helped his classmates with homework. His father told the New York Post he and his son had gone to visit relatives to enjoy the warm weather, and Wallace was playing outside with cousins when someone who resented the family’s parking spot began firing.
De Blasio said the police would make every effort to the find the shooter. “The NYPD will find the killer. Yes, he will be brought to justice. He will suffer the consequences of what he did,” the mayor vowed.
The mayor publicly called on state officials to push for parole reform, noting the parole system has failed to prevent people to commit crimes again once they leave prison.
“The sad reality is that the state government dumps state prisoners and parolees into New York City, often directly into our shelters, in a way that doesn’t help anyone, and the facts are clear,” he said. “State parolees are more likely to be shooting suspects than they have been in the past. They are four times more likely to be involved in gun violence than others who have been involved in the criminal justice system.”
De Blasio praised a parole system bill introduced in the legislature by Assembly Member Maritza Davila, which involves a multipronged plan of housing, mental health support, and reentry programing to help ease parolees back into society.
“We see a specific problem and we can do something about it and we can do something about it in a way that is understanding and compassionate, but also forceful re-entry planning, discharge, planning, housing, health support, including mental health support, making sure people have some employment,” the mayor said. “These are things that would make a huge difference and help keep us safe.”