“The parents aren’t being parents, the kids are running their parents. We have kids having kids. As a community, we need to tighten up,” said Sampson, founder of Razor Sharp Ministries in Liberty City.
Police say they are frustrated over the lost lives, but they say the killings are not predictable crimes.
“If a person wants to go out and deliberately kill somebody ... unless you have that police officer right there at that moment to intervene, you’re not going to stop that. It’s going to occur,” said Miami Gardens Police Chief Matthew Boyd.
Boyd said headlines of killings and shootings in Miami Gardens overshadow the gains his department has made since the city established its police department in 2007. In fact, violent crimes such as robberies and sexual assaults have actually declined in 2012, according to police statistics.
“In large part, the residents in this city have become a lot safer and we need to get that word out,” said Deputy Police Chief Paul Miller. “Crime has been reduced as a result of this police department.’’
Days after Johnson’s murder , the corrections officer’s wife, Ebony Sampson, was frustrated that no witnesses came forward.
“People are scared to talk, they don’t want to become a target, it’s crazy,” she said.
Police acknowledge investigations are often hampered by a no-snitch culture that frequently vexes law enforcement.
As an example, Boyd recalls a shooting at Bunche Park in late 2011. During an early evening peewee football game practice, a Chevrolet Impala pulled up and men jumped out of the back seat firing into the crowd. Four people, including an 11-year-old boy, were shot at the park. They all survived.
Boyd said there was a crowd of about 200 people that night, yet hardly anyone stepped forward with any information about the shooters.
“When we went to ask them did anybody see anything, not a thing was said. They were like, ‘No we didn’t see anything.’ And all those people were right there,” he said.
Residents and city officials point to several reasons for the violence, none of which are specific to Miami Gardens. One council member put the blame on neighborhood gangs. Others say inadequate education, misguided youth, community apathy and a breakdown of the black family structure have contributed to the problem.
Miami Gardens elected officials regularly address residents from the dais at council meetings about steps they’re taking to improve the quality of life in the city.
For a while, Miami Gardens banned guns in public parks. Then, the state Legislature in 2011 passed a law that fined any city official who tried to enforce a local gun ordinance, effectively eliminating Miami Gardens’ ban on guns in public parks.
The state law so incensed Miami Gardens elected officials that they refused to take their rule off the books. The move was mostly symbolic since the city will not enforce its ordinance.
At a recent council meeting, Vice Mayor Lisa Davis co-sponsored a resolution to support a ban on assault rifles and automatic weapons.
“I don’t want to see an increase in murders in our community. It’s time for us to take a stand,” Davis said.
Residents agree it will take more than the politicians to make a difference.
“I don’t know a lot about politicians, but we got to get the community together and get on one accord,” said resident Rico Johnson.
Not too long ago, Readon, the pastor at New Beginning, attended the funeral of one of his parishioners, Errold Peart.
Peart, a beloved member of the Miami Gardens community, owned a popular car wash. When he noticed a pair of young men trying to rob a customer, Peart intervened. The robbers fatally shot him instead.
At Peart’s funeral in December, more that 200 people attended. One by one, they filed down the center aisle of the church where they said their final goodbyes to him. Peart’s son, Dameion, said his father died trying to do the right thing. He hopes other will follow.
“You can’t blame the police,” he said. “They can only do so much. I think the community needs to step up. Even if it’s just to call the police when they see someone suspicious. The community needs to up the pressure.”
On New Year’s Day, Robert Brothers, 41, was shot to death blocks away from his Miami Gardens home. Weeks later, Landon Kinsey, a 15-year-old Miami Carol City student, was shot multiple times on his way to a friend’s house. He died.
On Sunday night, after a Super Bowl party, three people were shot in the city, one fatally. Police had not released the details as of late Monday afternoon.
Padra Kinsey, who buried her nephew Landon on Saturday, said she no longer wants to live in the city.
“This community feels like a graveyard,” she said. “We have crime that’s happening in bright day light and no one sees a thing.”