Ingersoll Residents Recall Leon Avery, Lament Violence in the Community

Memorial Candles for Leon Avery, 63, stand outside the entrance to 24 Monument Walk in the Ingersoll Houses. (Photo by Philippe Theise)
Memorial candles for Leon Avery, 63, stand outside the entrance to 24 Monument Walk in the Ingersoll Houses. (Photo by Philippe Theise)

Two candles stand outside the entrance of 24 Monument Walk in the violence-plagued Ingersoll Houses in memory of Leon Avery, 63, who died on the morning of Saturday, June 8 after police found him with a stab wound to his chest outside the building. One day after his death, Ingersoll residents remembered Avery as a kind man and lamented local violence.

“I was shocked when I heard that man was dead,” said a 92-year-old resident of 24 Monument Walk, who was watching her granddaughter play on the nearby basketball court with other local children on June 9.

The woman, who did not want to give her name for fear of retaliation, said that she used to see Avery in a White Castle restaurant, since closed, on Jay Street after Sunday church. She also recalled giving him a bicycle that her daughter didn’t want.

Margie Jimenez, 53, was sitting outside her building on Monument Walk after returning from the Puerto Rican Day Parade. She said that residents of 24 Monument Walk are reluctant to speak because of alleged illegal drug sales at that address.

“People live in that building afraid,” Jimenez said. “They don’t even want to get involved.”

Jimenez chose Margie as a pseudonym; she did not want her real name revealed.

“[If they] see you talking to a cop, they’re going to kill you,” she said.

Police say that they don’t have information on a suspect, or a clear motive for the attack on Avery, but “think that narcotics might be involved in some manner.” On the front door of 24 Monument Walk, a flyer asks local residents to contact the 88th Precinct detective squad with any information about the incident.

Jimenez said that chronic unemployment has led to drug dealing in the neighborhood.

“There’s no jobs,” she said. “There’s no work. Young people want to work.”

She complained that the city and the media don’t pay enough attention to violence and illegal activity on her block.

“No reporter comes and finds out what’s going on,” she said.

Monument Walk’s recent history is marked by violence. In The Nabe’s previous incarnation as The Local, we reported that on March 17, 2010, 23-year-old Joshua Vasquez was shot and killed nearly seven months after being arrested for participating in a kidnapping. On March 20, 2012, police found 21-year-old Jaquan Webb shot inside 48 Monument Walk, Webb, who died later that day, had been arrested for the murder of Vasquez two years before, but was not convicted.

Although no one died, another shooting occurred on the street the day after police found Webb.

Avery, who police say lived in the Fort Greene area but not on Monument Walk, had a criminal record. On Oct. 28, 1974, The New York Times reported that Avery was arrested after he turned himself in for the stabbing and death of his girlfriend, Miriam Guzman.

Avery was convicted of attempted manslaughter and began serving a four-year sentence on May 6, 1975. He was released on March 30, 1977, according to Linda Foglia, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Foglia said that Avery was imprisoned in 1988 for a conviction of 2nd degree burglary and again in 2002 for a conviction of 3rd degree burglary. He was paroled on June 26, 2008, and released from department supervision on Nov. 6 of that year.

Just outside 24 Monument Walk, Nelson Davis called Avery, “a good man” who “did his time,” and would “help people, [and] give good knowledge.” He added that Avery’s nickname was, “Sy.”

Keith Jones, 35, who visits his aunt in the building, also described Avery as possessing “a lot of wisdom.” Jones also said that Avery gave food and money to neighborhood children. He cited joblessness as one reason for crime in the area, but said that Fort Greene is safer now than in previous decades.

At around 8 p.m., a woman emerged from a 24 Monument Walk apartment. Although she declined to give her name, she expressed remorse about the death of Avery and the violence.

“It’s sad. It’s senseless. I feel really bad about it,” she said.

Emily Field contributed reporting.