MARINE PARK – Scores of teens from Marine Park gathered around a carefully arranged memorial – votive candles flickered, photos in frames and a plaque emblazoned with the name of Rohan Burke, 17, who was stabbed to death in broad daylight on a busy Midwood Street in front of so many witnesses and cameras last week.
The plaque read “Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day – Forever in our hearts.”
It brought tears to the teens and family members gathered next to the basketball courts in Marine Park Tuesday evening – all mourning the loss of a loved one and friend, but also abhorring the senseless violence that took his life and will destroy the life of the teen who in a moment of rage, stabbed him in the chest.
This stabbing comes as more violence in New York City and around the country is committed among teenagers lashing out at fellow teens – most recently yesterday in Colorado where teenagers shot fellow students in their school.
Rohan was said to be “peace-loving” and was an avid basketball player. Two basketballs were part of the memorial. His family said he also enjoyed video games and had aspirations of being an attorney one day. But his friends remembered him as a jovial presence in the school and in gatherings, always the positive essence of the crowd.
Burke was on East 17th Street and Avenue M on the afternoon of April 29 when he became embroiled in an argument allegedly with David Lopez, 17, of Rugby Road. Lopez’ mother Barbara Galloza, 38, was charged with hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence for allegedly stashing the knife for her son. Both have been mum on the motive for the stabbing and the whereabouts of the murder weapon. Police say both were allegedly captured on video committing their crimes and in front of numerous witnesses.
Lopez surrendered last Wednesday at the 70th Precinct stationhouse in what was described as a “prom tuxedo,” and was paraded into a squad car to his arraignment in the same suit. Strangely, nobody at the memorial knew Lopez and were lost as to a motive for the killing.
Maria Tompkins, a friend of Burke who attended Fillmore Academy School in Marine Park with him, said they wanted to do something for the family and bring his friends together.
“We were like a little family – he was such a sweet kid, never mean to me anyway,” said Tompkins as she addressed a circle of friends gathered around the memorial. “He had an amazing smile that would brighten your day – his voice was like an angel – sometimes God wants his angels back. It is awful what happened to him – he was a good person, all have faults but at end of day, he was a very good person.”
Vinny Decicco attended Lafayette High with Burke and remembered playing basketball with him often and would “always excited to see us.”
“He would see us in the hallway of school and scream out our names,” Decicco said of his friend. “He was a kind-hearted person, never in a bad mood, always smiling. He got along with all the teachers and he was fun to be around. It was never a dull moment with him – just a good time.”
Burke’s parents, Kevin Burke and Tracey Beckles, were tearful as they walked up to the memorial surrounded by teenagers. They embraced numerous teens, many hugging the Beckles as she broke down in tears.
“It was really nice that they came out – he was loved, he was loved by everybody,” Burke’s father said of his son. “He was a wonderful kid – no problems. He just inspired people – he had big dreams.”
Burke’s cousin, Samantha Miller, said the family “can’t even explain why this happened.” “We were a close-knit family – he was a funny kid always making jokes and just wanted to make everyone laugh,” Miller said. “We still can’t process it or explain it. It’s just not safe in the world at all. The people who did this need to be in jail the rest of their lives – they ruined our family and we will never be the same.”
Shannon Grant and Giavanna Testa, both parents of teenagers attending the memorial were impressed that so many teens showed in the park, but also worried that teens and parents react properly to the violence.
“It’s nice they showed respect and they were a community again,” Testa said. “The problem here is that too many people were busy photographing, standing there with their cell phones that day instead of helping. If that was your child, wouldn’t you help? Instead, some of those people that day were too busy with their cell phones and posting to social media instead of helping – would you want that happening to your kids?”
“I have two other kids and I don’t want to wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning and have to tell them that another one of your friends was killed. We have to wake up,” Grant added.
The Brooklyn District attorney’s office says Lopez and his mother are being held without bail on Riker’s Island. No date has been set for their next court appearance.