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Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Mayor Bill deBlasio And The Politics of Murder

     A successful politician must do three things well: Raise a lot of money for himself and his family; lie convincingly to constituents; and avoid responsibility or blame for anything that could make him or her look like a political hack. High rates of crime make politicians look bad because to get elected, or re-elected, they promised to reduce it. The politician also hates the commission of a high-profile murder in his or her backyard. When that happens the politician seeks to find someone else to blame. This is the dirty politics of murder.

The Public Housing Elevator Murder Case

     At six in the evening on Sunday, June 1, 2014, 6-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto and his 7-year-old friend Mikayla Capers, residents of a Brooklyn, New York housing project complex called Boulevard Houses, were riding the building's elevator on their way to get some ice cream.

     When the elevator stopped at the lobby and the door opened a heavy-set black man wearing a gray shirt entered the elevator and stabbed the two children, dropped the bloody knife and fled the building. The Avitto boy, stabbed in the torso, lay unconscious and unresponsive. The girl, Mikayla, was stabbed in the chest and had cuts on her hands.

     At the Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center doctors pronounced Prince Avitto dead. His friend, in critical condition, was transferred to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for specialized surgery.

     Unfortunately for homicide detectives the elevator compartment was not equipped with a surveillance camera. Investigators were working off the theory that the man who stabbed the housing project children might be the same person who, on Friday May 30, 2014, had stabbed 18-year-old Tanaya Copeland to death. That homicide had been committed just a few blocks from the housing project. The unidentified perpetrator in the Tanaya Copeland case had left the murder knife at that crime scene as well.

     On Tuesday, June 3, 2014 New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio, appearing before reporters gathered at a press conference blamed the housing authority bureaucracy for failing to install surveillance cameras in the housing project elevators. The mayor specifically pointed his finger at his predecessor, Mayor Bloomberg.

     Since politicians create bureaucracy this criticism was rather ironic. Moreover, while surveillance video is an excellent investigative tool, the presence of a camera in the elevator would not have prevented the stabbings.

     On Wednesday, June 4, 2014, at eight o'clock in the evening, New York City detectives arrested 27-year-old Daniel St. Hubert as a suspect in the elevator stabbing case. According to a police spokesperson Mr. Hubert had a criminal history. He was on parole in connection with a domestic dispute assault conviction.

     Because Mayor deBlasio couldn't blame guns in this case he blamed the housing authority and the former mayor. Maybe he should have blamed himself as a big government politician who reveled in bureaucracy. Or better yet, he could have blamed the man with the knife.

     In the end the mayor did not blame the Avitto boy's death on failed mental health care or a dysfunctional criminal justice system. He and his supporters blamed his murder on "society." It was our fault.  

     In April 2018 a jury sitting in Brooklyn found St. Hubert guilty of murder and attempted murder. The judge sentenced him to 50 years to life. 
     Bill deBlasio is no longer mayor of New York and crime there is even worse. The politician who replaced Mr. deBlasio also promised to reduce crime in the city. As it turned out the new guy isn't any better than the hack he replaced. 


  1. Yes it's a failure of mental health care. Why would someone randomly kill two kids?
    Mental health is the red headed stepchild of healthcare. It's hard to find prividers, and getting your insurance to pay is like pulling teeth.. Need to find a provider with Medicaid? You may as well start looking for a unicorn.

  2. Mental Health is still taboo. Maybe not as much as before but it still remains uncomfortable for many to talk about.
    I'm sure the killer did not come from a stable home or parents with good parenting skills. This is an area that is so lacking in our society today. Mental illness, bad parenting contribut a great deal of harm in our society.
    Most politicians won't touch either area.
    The mayor can be adamant about cctv cameras in all public housing or vacinty. It would at least help capturing the perpetrator. Those young children did need an adult to be with them. They are still to young to be wondering around by themselves.
    Politicians generally don't care, real people do. If we had more real people run for office rather than politicians, what better changes could be made.