The mother of a teenager who was the victim of a fatal shooting in Westchester is urging city officials to improve safety and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
The shooting, which happened in Mount Vernon on Thursday, March 9 around 10:35 a.m. in the courtyard of the Levister Towers complex at 215 South 9th Avenue, left 14-year-old Zyaire Fernandez dead.
Days after the shooting, on Tuesday, March 14, Mount Vernon Police arrested 21-year-old Tyrese Coghiel in connection with the fatal shooting.
Now, in the wake of Coghiel's arrest, Fernandez's mother, Tara Williams, is speaking out against the violence in the city that has now taken away the life of her son, who was a student at Mount Vernon STEAM Academy who had not been in attendance at school on the day of the incident.
"While my family and I are somewhat relieved at the news of an arrest, it does not bring Zyaire back," Williams said in a statement on the day of Coghiel's arrest, adding, "the danger for our kids is unacceptable!"
Williams called on the city's officials to "take safety seriously."
"I am outraged and want action to bring peace to the streets so no other mother, father, sister, brother, or person has to experience the pain and sorrow we are feeling today," she said.
Williams continued, "My son...my baby...was too young and did not deserve to die!”
Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard also addressed the shooting in a statement on Wednesday, March 15, saying that she would like to work together with the city's school district to create "sustainable solutions" to keep youth safe.
"I, like the rest of the city, am aggrieved by the senseless murder of a 14-year-old high school freshman which has shocked our city and brought tremendous trauma and pain to our community," Patterson-Howard said.
She continued, "Together we will work not just to look at incidents of violence but to identify and address the drivers of violence," adding that the city should take a similar approach to the problem as it did when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
"We dug our heels in, broke down silos, consulted with experts, and sought to identify long-term remedies and not superficial and knee-jerk responses," Patterson-Howard said, continuing, "I am calling on Mount Vernon stakeholders to act with the same level of urgency in implementing that same holistic approach to public safety in addressing the chronic issues plaguing our community."
As Fernandez's family grieves his sudden loss, the Mount Vernon community is helping to make sure that they will not do it alone, as a GoFundMe page has been started to raise money for his funeral expenses.
On the fundraiser page, organizer Jahtara Evans called Fernandez "a good kid with a good heart," who had an "infectious smile" and "lovable laugh."
Those interested in donating to the GoFundMe page can click here to do so.
As of Wednesday, March 15, around 11:15 a.m., $4,100 had been raised out of a $10,000 goal.
According to the Westchester County District Attorney's Office, which will be prosecuting Coghiel on the charges of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, Coghiel was arraigned in Mount Vernon City Court on Tuesday, March 14, and was then returned to custody.
Anyone with any information related to the shooting is asked to call the Mount Vernon Police Detective Division at 914-665-2510.
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