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Albany Officials Mark 10th Anniversary Of Kathina Thomas Shooting

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

The 10th anniversary of the shooting death of a 10-year-old Albany girl was commemorated Monday night at city hall.

Kathina Thomas, a 10-year-old city girl, was killed by a stray bullet fired from a 15-year old boy's "community gun" as she played in front of her family home on  First Street May 29, 2008. A few months later, in October, 22-year-old UAlbany student Richard Bailey was shot dead by a 17-year-old a block from Washington Park.  Both young killers were given life sentences.

But the cycle of  violence continued, eventually impacting Albany's top elected official, Mayor Kathy Sheehan:  "When I received a phone call, on April 8th of 2017, from my son's birth mother, telling me that the young man who had been murdered at the corner of First and Quail was her son and my son's brother, gun violence hit home directly.  Senseless usage of guns that are killing people in our city, not only impacting  those who lose their lives, but their families forever. And for an act of gun  violence to occur not even a year later at that same location, where bullets pierced  the windows of a daycare center, over senseless gun violence is something that we  need to stop in this community."

Albany Common Councilor Derek Johnson's brother was shot and killed in 1993:   "Since the late '80's or early '90's when guns got introduced to our  community, it changed a loving community."

Jerome Brown is a member of the anti-gun group 518 SNUG:  "In 2008 my brother, to this day is paralyzed because he was helpin' me do security at a local bar. Also in 2008 I lost my nephew because he was shot and killed when he went to a party."

The Times Union recently reported that Albany has become safer. According to the paper, the year Thomas died there were 201 crimes committed with firearms in the city. Last year, there were 121.

Community activist Marlon Anderson:    "Numbers only tell about successful shootins. They don't tell you about  the shootins that have happened but weren't successful. They haven't told you  about the acts of violence that haven't been counted."

Anderson's tireless anti-gun efforts have been mirrored by others including Pastor Charlie Muller, District Attorney David Soares, SNUG and former Councilor Dom Calsolaro.  But a unified effort never materialized. Thomas' brother George Yhap made a plea at City Hall:   "I would like for us to implement all the programs that we started up to eliminate, stop and cure all the violence so that our young people could actually live their life."

Anderson is optimistic:  "There are more representatives in this event than there have been in perhaps all the gun violence events, including the events that I held in the city of Albany than there has ever been, and I am happy to see that, because if this  problem is gonna be addressed and solved, they can't leave it to the community  agencies, they can't leave it to programs. Leaders are going to have to lead."

The Albany Common Council declared June 2nd "Gun Violence Awareness Day" and June  "Gun Violence Awareness Month."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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