Advertisement

Member of Bensonhurst gang names shooter

By GRETCHEN LANG

NEW YORK -- A black man who admitted bringing bats to the scene of an alleged racial slaying in Brooklyn testified Tuesday that he learned of the killing when a neighborhood youth said 'Joey Fama just shot a black kid on the corner.'

Joseph Russell Gibbons, 21, a longtime resident of Bensonhurst, the Brooklyn neighborhood where the slaying took place on Aug. 23, told the jury in state Court that he was standing by a stoop with several others moments after Fama allegedly shot 16-year-old Yusuf Hawkins.

Advertisement

Fama and Keith Mondello, both 19, are charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of Hawkins, a black teenager who came to the predominantly white neighborhood to look at a used car and was surrounded by a bat-wielding mob of white youths.

Fama is accused of firing the fatal shot in a confrontation that enflamed racial tensions in New York and sparked many protests, some of them violent.

Advertisement

Gibbons testified that shortly after hearing gunshots a neighborhood youth ran up to him.

'Frankie Tighe came up,' Gibbons said. 'He was excited, in a nervous state. He said Joey Fama just shot a black kid on the corner. I told him he better be careful for what he said.'

Gibbons said he helped a friend, Charles Stressler, 22, bring a box of softball bats to a store in Bensonhurst after Mondello told him that a gang of 'black and Hispanic' youths were coming into the neighborhood for a fight.

'He asked me if I'd be there to defend himself,' Gibbons testified. 'He asked me if I would take a walk with him to his house to get some bats. We went to the house and brought the bats in a box. I helped carry them to the candy store.'

Gibbons said he watched white youths from the neighborhood arm themselves with bats and even took one himself in preparation for the fight.

'Did you in fact hear racial epithets?' Assistant District Attorney Paul Burns asked.

'Yes, one or two,' Gibbons said.

A crowd formed in an adjacent schoolyard, and Gibbons said he heard someone yell, 'They're here! They're here!' before the crowd swarmed out of the yard and down the avenue.

Advertisement

Gibbons said he waited until everyone had left and then cautiously followed but turned back after hearing four shots.

But under cross-examination by Fama's lawyer, David DePetris, Gibbons acknowledged that he did not see the killing himself.

'You don't know who shot Yusuf Hawkins, do you?' DePetris asked.

'No,' Gibbons replied.

DePetris tried to question Gibbons on Tighe's alleged history of mental illness but was prevented by the judge. Prosecutors said they may call Tighe to the stand Thursday.

The defense has said Gibbons' testimony will help dispel the prosecution's contention that the killing of Hawkins was recially motivated.

In afternoon testimony, Luther Sylvester, a black high school senior, told the jury how he, Hawkins and two other friends had gone to Bensonhurst to look at a car and found themselves suddenly surrounded by a white mob.

'One of the white boys came through the crowd and bumped Yusuf into a doorway,' Sylvester testified. 'After a few seconds I heard shots behind me. I saw Yusuf fall and then he sprang back up holding his chest. He was bleeding.'

The black teenager was slain during an attack by a gang of about 30 whites, some wielding baseball bats, who had waited outside the home of Gina Feliciano. The young woman had told Mondello, a former boyfriend, that she was inviting blacks and Hispanics to her 18th birthday party.

Advertisement

Latest Headlines