A 17-year-old student was fatally shot at Midwood’s Urban Dove Charter School on Thursday afternoon.
Police say Devonte Lewis from Canarsie was leaving the school, which is housed at the East Midwood Jewish Center (EJMC) at 1256 East 21st Street, when he was shot in the chest and the hand shortly before 2:45pm.
Officers from the 70th Precinct responded to the scene, and EMS rushed Lewis to Kings County Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Police say two suspects attempted to flee the scene in a BMW sedan before deciding to leave the vehicle behind. A motive for the shooting has not yet been established, and no arrests have been made in the ongoing investigation.
Jai Nanda, Urban Dove’s director, said the perpetrators were “from outside our school community.”
“Urban Dove has never experienced an event such as this and we send our thoughts and prayers to our student’s family,” Nanda said in a statement. “Urban Dove is in close communication with NYPD and will cooperate fully to help ensure that these violent criminals are quickly brought to justice.”
Memorial candles and a heart-shaped balloon were on display outside Lewis’ family home in Canarsie’s Bayview Houses over the weekend. Nanda told the New York Daily News that Lewis was a first-year student who had spent relatively limited time at the school because of COVID-19-related closures.
“He’s a young man who clearly was interested in recommitting himself to his education and improving his life in that way,” Nanda told the tabloid.
Urban Dove, whose student body is made up largely of older students of color that have struggled in traditional schools, opened at the EJMC site in 2019. Though EJMC’s board voted overwhelmingly in favor of leasing space to Urban Dove, the move was strenuously opposed by many Orthodox Jewish residents in the neighborhood, who wanted the Center’s vacant space filled by a religious school and who sometimes used racist language in their opposition. One local resident wrote in a letter to Bklyner that the school is populated by “teenagers with a propensity for violence.”
In a statement published Friday, EMJC Rabbi Sam Levine wrote that both the school community and neighbors had been “rattled,” and said the shooting “has disrupted their lives and upended their tranquility, at least temporarily.” He framed the shooting in the context of rising gun violence rates across the city.
But Levine defended EMJC’s decision to lease its space to Urban Dove, writing that in doing so, the Center’s leadership “stood up.”
“We tell ourselves that children, particularly children who have struggled, have a right to a good education, deserve every chance to succeed, deserve a safe neighborhood to go to school in, and deserve to be supported,” Levine said. “Anyone can tell that story. Most people would tell that story. We acted on it.”
Local Council Member Farah Louis, who in 2019 issued a statement with other elected officials condemning “disparaging comments” about Urban Dove even though she had earlier pushed back on the school’s presence in the area, said on Friday that the city’s new Safe Summer NYC program and ongoing work with Cure Violence groups would be “instrumental in de-escalating tensions to prevent shootings while connecting our youth to opportunities and programming.”
“With the police investigation underway, it is paramount that we remain focused on addressing the gun violence that continues to plague our community rather than further scrutinizing an academic institution that is dedicated to providing our youth with a second chance to pursue higher education and lead meaningful lives,” Louis said in a statement.