NYPD Increases UWS Patrols to Combat Gang Animosity Following Homicide

By Joy Bergmann

Longstanding tensions between two rival gangs on the Upper West Side have heated up following last week’s stabbing murder of Tony McClain, 20, causing NYPD’s 24th Precinct to increase patrols, Capt. Seth Lynch told attendees at Wednesday night’s Community Council meeting.

Lynch told West Side Rag that McClain was associated with CAG, Columbus Avenue Gunners [sometimes spelled Gunnas], a “crew” largely populated by youth from the area in and around NYCHA’s Douglass Houses development between 100 and 104th Streets, Manhattan Avenue to Amsterdam.

Lynch added that the suspects charged in McClain’s murder, Jashawn Gorham, 18, and Brighton Montgomery, 17, were affiliated with a crew known as Money Comes First [MCF]. MCF recruits often hail from NYCHA developments in the West 90s, Lynch said, including Wise Towers on 90th and 91st between Columbus and Amsterdam, the DeHostos Apartments on 93rd and Amsterdam, and buildings known as WSUR sites.

“There is an existing animosity between youth that reside in the Frederick Douglass Houses and those who reside in the DeHostos area at the [southern] end of the precinct,” Lynch stated at the meeting. “We do have a crew of individuals known by association to each other that have been known to engage in criminal acts in the Douglass Houses as well as the Wise Towers.”

Lynch said a memorial vigil for McClain held last Friday night in a Douglass Houses courtyard attracted over 100 mourners.

The following night – Saturday, January 12th, around 9:55pm – a group of individuals gathered on 102nd Street between Central Park West and Manhattan Avenue. A fight reportedly broke out and shots were fired. No one was hurt, but 24th Precinct detectives are seeking the public’s help in identifying the individuals seen in surveillance photos from the scene.  The incident may be connected to the McClain homicide, but the investigation is ongoing, Lynch said. ‘The time frame between the homicide on Thursday and the shots fired incident on Saturday night is not something that’s being ignored by us here at the precinct.”

Lynch also revealed another connecting point between McClain’s stabbing and other recent crimes.

Last August, WSR reported the shooting of an unidentified teenage boy in front of the DeHostos Apartments. Lynch said that the victim in that incident was Jashawn Gorham, who is now charged in McClain’s murder. Lynch said the alleged shooter in the August incident, Jermaine Johnson, 20, was one of three individuals arrested on January 3, 2019, and charged in a federal case in conjunction with the NYPD’s Manhattan North Gang Unit.

WSR has covered multiple acts of violence and theft allegedly involving MCF and CAG crew members going back to 2013. Capt. Lynch rattled off a few of the most egregious incidents, including a 2017 shooting at a barber shop on Columbus and 105th. In 2018, Lynch said, the precinct and the Gang Unit were “paying special attention” to Douglass Houses, leading to six other individuals being arrested and brought up on federal charges of distribution of crack cocaine. As a result, complaints of narcotics sales activity – especially around 109th Street – have diminished, he said.

Today police say they do not know the exact number of youth involved with MCF and CAG on the Upper West Side. Nor can officers say whether a handful of individuals is responsible for the majority of the crews’ suspected criminal acts.

But officers have committed to being extra vigilant against any retaliatory violence stemming from the McClain murder. “There has been and will continue to be an increase in the number of officers patrolling the precinct,” Lynch said. “Here at the 24th, I have officers coming in on their days off to monitor both the Douglass area, the Wise area and the area in between where we had the incident last week.”

Editorial note:  Two photos that originally appeared in this post did not depict Tony McClain, but an uninvolved man who also recently died. We regret the error.

NEWS | 28 comments | permalink
    1. Sarah says:

      All right, before everyone loses their damn minds, please try to remember that, gang member or not, this young man was a human being, a family member, and part of a community. There were people who loved him. It would be great if everyone could keep that in mind before you talk about him as if he were an animal. He’s paid the ultimate price for his foolishness already.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        Your “warning lecture” is nauseating. I and others who live here do not want to get caught in “crossfire” from these human beings. THANK YOU NYPD for all your efforts in combating this deadly violence.

        • CommonSense says:

          +1

        • Sarah says:

          I don’t want to get shot, either. I live within maybe five minutes’ walk of where this happened. I saw the police presence when it happened. I grew up in a neighborhood fifty times worse than the UWS of today, I know a lot more about what it’s like to live in an unsafe place than people nesting cozily on the UWS do. I doubt you’d last a week where I came up.

          But I’m also not someone who needs to think of other people as subhuman or deserving of death just to try to leverage some desperately lacking self-worth. This is a tragedy for all involved, a waste of young lives and potential. If you feel angry or threatened at being asked not to talk about someone’s dead son like he’s an animal, you should be questioning what’s going on in your heart.

      • B.W. says:

        Agreed! It’s so horrible that a 20 year-old was senselessly killed. Condolences to his family.

      • Me3 says:

        Wow Sarah! It would be great if YOU could keep in mind that this young man’s “foolishness” has caused great pain and suffering not only to his family and community, but innocent victims who didn’t even know him. I think your sympathy is misplaced here.

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          Me3 doesn’t seem to realize that Tony McClain is the VICTIM of a horrendous crime, a murder, not the perpetrator. Talk about “blame the victim”.

          Who are his “innocent victims” who “didn’t even know him”?

          This young man got murdered. The only appropriate response is to offer condolences to his family and friends.

    2. Ben David says:

      Can’t wait to here the de Blasio fans respond: the UWS is safer than it has ever been … crime statistics are down … and the very fine and brave NYPD have no problems stopping and questioning suspected gang members.

      • Sarah says:

        It *is* crazily safer than it was twenty-five years ago. That’s kind of how numbers work. Look them up yourself if you don’t believe me; they’re right on the NYPD website.

    3. Margaret says:

      Did you speak to any of the Upper West Siders who live in these complexes as part of your reporting? Any at all?

      I ask because there are pros and cons they’ll measure: the balance of safety they deserve against the documented risks if their kids are haphazardly swept onto NYPD’s secret gang database, which it sounds like Captain Lynch and his volunteers are about to bulk up. Not mentioned in your writeup here: Legal Aid Society does a good job of publicizing their efforts to make sure it’s not a “blacklist” for the poor.

      No doubt the neighborhood fascists love this kind of coverage, but I think you, West Side Rag, should consider why you presented these housing complexes to your readers as blights whose hundreds of residents aren’t even worth talking to. I’m certainly interested to hear their thoughts.

      • Joy Bergmann says:

        Thank you for your comment. This story is a report of what the NYPD announced at one Community Council meeting this week.

        WSR reporters value the perspectives of everyone who lives on the Upper West Side.

      • geoff says:

        many thumbs up!!

      • Mary says:

        Call it out!!!! The police can act senselessly if they think the community wants more profiling of young black men, which not everyone does. Don’t let the police create another Eric Garner situation!

    4. ST says:

      Longstanding problem. Too late a response by the 24th.

    5. tom burnett says:

      Excellent article and summary of the Community Council meeting and what the Precinct is doing to prevent future violent confrontations.

      Tom Burnett, President of the 24 Precinct Community Council

    6. UWS Resident says:

      Why aren’t there many many more cameras, and why aren’t they high-resolution? In todays day and age that seems like an affordable no-brainer, better than this fuzzy b&w.

    7. Drew says:

      Dont we know that our fearless leader our Mayor will fix it all. He might even designate one of our parks as a combat zone.

    8. Cyrus says:

      Interesting. I just walked through that area, from 106 to 100 and Amsterdam and no police presence at all. Surprising since Friday afternoon is when the troublemakers start to get active. I hope the 24 back up their words.

    9. Dave O. says:

      What a response from Cpt. Seth Lynch. In November at the community council meeting I asked him about gang activity and his response was “I never said that gangs cause a significant amount of crime in the 24th”. I asked him if he could tell us what percentage of crimes are caused by the gangs and he said “I don’t know.” I asked how many arrests have been made, what percentages of crimes have been cleared and his response is “We don’t track how many crimes have been solved, we only track the number of crimes reported”. He said nothing about gangs, their name, their effect on the crime trends, how they work, and how they deal with the hangs.

      I also mentioned that the 24th precinct is 2nd in northern Manhattan when it comes to crimes such as felony assault and his response was that you can’t compare districts because they are too different. Again, for any given crime rate they have no numbers for the arrest rate, no numbers for which investigations have lead to arrests.

      There are no metrics for their effectiveness.

      Cpt Lynch frowns during the whole council council meeting and becomes defensive to any questions. Tom Burrnet, the president of the council, is more concerned about ‘toy for tots’ than the crime rate.

      During the council meeting the police give presentations about ‘how you should lock your door’,
      and ‘don’t get scammed on the phone’. So basic, it is useless.

    10. Sherman says:

      Rival gangs. Sounds like West Side Story.

      Just like the Sharks and the Jets!

    11. Parker says:

      Our community would be far safer if we had tighter firearms regulations at the federal level. The flow of illegal firearms into NYC is a primary driver of this type of deadly violence. Yet it’s hardly ever addressed in these discussions and it needs to be.

    12. tom burnett says:

      I was surprised by Dave O’s nasty, negative commentary in Comment #9. I know Dave and we have had several phone and email message exchanges. In any event, I completely disagree with his view of the 24 Precinct, Captain Seth Lynch and the Community Council. Capt. Lynch has discussed the disposition of the major cases and the ones brought to his attention at the public Council meetings. He has invited speakers from the CCRB and Safe Havens to speak at the Council meetings. He arranged for NYPD speakers to present on the Right To Know law and on NYC Gang activity. In addition, several residents on many occasions have come up to me to praise the work of the NCO’s and the Community Affairs Officers. As for Dave’s comment about my concern for ‘toys for tots’-I am proud of the Council’s effort (with the help of the Precinct’s Community Affairs officers) to pack up some 40 bags of toys which we delivered to needy families at shelters in the Precinct confines. If Dave O. made a similar contribution to the neighborhood, I am yet to hear of it. Tom Burnett, President of the 24 Precinct Community Council.

    13. Bruce E. Bernstein says:

      I’ve noticed that there is a startling insensitivity, a crassness, from many commenters towards some recent crime victims on the UWS. Ironically, this comes from many of the same people who continually try to falsely portray the UWS as a crime-invested jungle, ruled by gangs prowling the streets.

      In fact, both of our recent murders, Susan Trott and Tony McClain, apparently were done by people who knew them. this is similar to the vast majority of murders in the US take place.

      First, we had Ms. Trott vilified in the media — repeatedly — by a certain “community leader” on the UWS who pparently had some run-ins with her. While she was eulogized in Adweek.com (https://www.adweek.com/agencies/the-nypd-is-investigating-the-murder-of-a-longtime-agency-copywriter/) and received a long bio in the NY Times article, detailing her accomplishments, (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/22/nyregion/murder-upper-west-side-susan-trott.html), in WSR, the description of her as a beloved person in the community was very limited (with the exception of some commenters), and of course the “community leader’s” posthumous insults were recorded for posterity.

      Now we have the terrible murder of Tony McClain, and too many commenters think it is appropriate to vilify him. Why? We see nothing in WSR about his actual person: his family, his friends, his accomplishments in his too-short life.

      Apparently you have to be a certain type of crime victim in order to get sympathy from some people. If you are the “wrong type” of victim — slightly eccentric, or a young black male — then there is no remembrance.

      There was a memorial vigil in Douglass Houses for Mr. McClain, and it was reported over 100 people attended. He was mourned and loved in his immediate community. Wouldn’t it be appropriate to ask some of their recollections and thoughts? Isn’t Douglass Houses part of the UWS?