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Remembrances being held for shooting victim as some ponder solutions

 A vigil was held at Fort Hardy Park in Schuylerville on April 20, 2023 for Kaylin Gillis.
Samantha Simmons
A vigil was held at Fort Hardy Park in Schuylerville on April 20, 2023 for Kaylin Gillis.

Remembrances continue to pour in for Kaylin Gillis, the 20-year-old Saratoga County woman who was fatally shot when she and a group of friends turned down a wrong driveway in rural Washington County Saturday night.

Speaking publicly for the first time Wednesday, Andrew Gillis remembered his daughter after her accused killer, 65-year-old Kevin Monahan, was denied bail.

“She was so smart. She was so smart, kind loving. She had so many friends, the outreach from everyone around the world has been incredible and uplifting for our family,” said Gillis.

Monahan’s defense attorney, Kurt Mausert, says he plans to appeal the judge’s decision to withhold bail.

“It makes a defense attorney’s job incredibly difficult. Unless the client can come into the office and spend a day or half a day or however long it takes to be interviewed to go over evidence to consult with counsel. It's not the same going up and talking to somebody behind shatter resistant glass at the jail,” said Mausert.

While the criminal investigation is in its early stages, Gillis’ family and others are wondering what could have prevented the tragedy.

During Wednesday’s press conference carried by NewsChannel 13, Gillis decried the spotty cell service in parts of Washington County. His daughter and friends reportedly had to drive for several minutes to find service to call for help after the shooting.

“Frankly, I’m pissed that there was no cell service out there because that could have been the difference between you know, first responders getting there to be able to save my daughter I can't say for sure. I don't know,” said Gillis.

Capital Region Congressman Paul Tonko, a Democrat who hopes to attend an event remembering Gillis in his 20th District, said he’s long fought for improving service in upstate New York.

“Whether it's cell service, broadband, or what have you. But again…a tragic set of circumstances that led to this fatality. And we just do want to respond to what…however we can to remove that hurt, and pain that would be felt by others. But certainly, for the family here we commit our energy to getting these things done, but most importantly, extend our condolences for the immense loss in their lives,” said Tonko.

Speaking with WAMC, Tonko reflected on how the case mirrors other recent shootings, including the incident in Kansas City where a teenager was injured after ringing the wrong doorbell. A North Carolina man is accused of shooting a young child and two others after a basketball allegedly rolled into his yard. In Texas, two cheerleaders were recently shot after mistakenly entering the wrong car.

“We have seen a cluster of these situations in the country over the last few days. And I think it just reminds us of the need to have sound, common sense gun safety reforms that enable us to move forward with red flag issues with storage, with background checks, with sales, that should all cover background checks. And so, the improvements called for continued to be a list of reforms that need to be passed by Congress,” said Tonko

Tricia Pleu, a Saratoga County resident and New York spokesperson for gun violence prevention organization Moms Demand Action, says new laws are not the only solution.

“Unfortunately, this is a complex problem that needs like complex solutions. It's not one thing that's going to fix this gun violence issue. I think what we need is culture change, and accountability,” said Pleu.

As news of Gillis’ death has spread internationally and support for her family has poured in, Mausert points to the other side. He said he’s been “deluged” with hate mail and threats, which he attributes to a widespread lack of understanding of the judicial system and defense attorneys.

“The amount of verbal violence and intimations of physical violence, including against my family, have just been astounding. There is a latent genetic mob mentality in the human race and boy, is it coming out in this case,” said Mausert.

Those gathered at Thursday's vigil for Gillis hold candles in her memory.
Samantha Simmons

A candlelight vigil was held for Kaylin Gillis Thursday at Fort Hardy Park in Schuylerville at 7 p.m.

A community gathering will be held beginning at noon Friday before Gillis’ 4 p.m. service at the Flynn Bros funeral home in Schuylerville.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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