Saturday’s shooting death of Jessica Canty in her Ozone Park home, allegedly at the hands of her husband, has put the spotlight back on a problem the NYPD has said is plaguing neighborhoods in South Queens and across the borough — domestic violence.
In the 102nd and 106th precincts, many recent killings recently have stemmed from domestic incidents. Last November, an Ozone Park man, Adalberto Sanchez, allegedly killed his wife and attempted to kill himself. In August 2013, a Woodhaven woman, Maria Espinoza, allegedly hit her boyfriend, Matthew Soria, with a vehicle on purpose during a fight, dragging him for blocks along Jamaica Avenue and killing him. Lee Burrison, 55, of Richmond Hill was murdered by his longtime girlfriend, Shirley Forbes, in April 2013. Most notable in South Queens recently was the 2008 case of Barbara Sheehan, who shot her husband dead in their Howard Beach home after years of abuse.
Domestic incidents have led to death across the borough. In January, Deisy Mejia, 21, and her daughters Yoselin, 1, and Daniela, 2, were allegedly stabbed to death by their abusive husband and father, Miguel Mejia-Ramos. That same month, Carlos Amarillo, 44, was arrested for allegedly murdering his girlfriend and her daughter in their East Elmhurst home with a hammer. Last June, a St. Albans cop murdered his wife and then killed himself.
According to the NYPD, the definition of domestic violence includes incidents between all couples, spousal or not, as well as long-term roommates, which is an expansion of the policy that once only covered married couples. In the 102nd and 106th precincts, the problem has become an epidemic, cops say.
In February, Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff, commanding officer of the 106th Precinct, said 53 percent of felonies in the command at that point were domestic violence-related, a similar trend existed in the 102nd. That same month, the precincts teamed up to hold a seminar aimed at educating the public on how officers respond to domestic violence incidents and how to report them.
One of the issues has been the stigma of domestic violence in many communities, especially immigrant communities, and women who don’t speak English. In the case of Mejia, friends said she was afraid to go to authorities due to her status as an undocumented immigrant.
Deputy Inspector Hank Sautner, commanding officer of the 102nd Precinct, said in early 2013 that while domestic violence seems to be prevalent across all ethnic groups, some immigrant communities refuse to report incidents because of the stigma. He said the rise in numbers could be in part due to a change in that attitude, and that’s just what cops want to happen.
“They realize that crimes of violence are totally unacceptable and they are reporting it more,” he said at a precinct community council meeting in March 2013.
Paloma Rojas, a resident of Ozone Park, rejects a hands-off attitude. She said that while the issue of domestic violence is seen as a private one, it’s something that can affect an entire community.
“The reaction of neighbors, friends and family is always ‘It’s none of my business,’ but it is our business,” Rojas said as she walked past the scene of Saturday’s shooting on 104th Street. “When you have incidents between husbands and wives, children see it, they are affected by it, they bring it to school, to church, to playdates with our kids. And when it gets really bad, stuff like this happens and it’s a blemish on the neighborhood. We can’t ignore it.”