Gangs on Long Island: Parent is powerless after brush with gang
It's been two months since two Brentwood High school students were beaten to death, their bodies dumped in the street. Gang members are suspected of those murders and several others in Brentwood.
Fear has taken hold of many in the community, and of one parent in particular who says he is powerless to protect his child.
"Dave," who did not want to show his face or use his real name, says his teenage son's life is on the line because of gangs in Brentwood.
"He can't go out and enjoy life like he used to," Dave says. "He's depressed and he doesn't even want to leave the house."
Dave says his son was assaulted and robbed by several suspected gang members back in September, a week before school started. He says they followed his boy to the front of the house, held him down and assaulted him.
The family didn't know who the suspects were -- until the school year began.
Dave says one of the suspects was in the teen's class, in the very same classroom. The teen texted his dad, and Dave immediately called the school to have his son transferred to another class.
But that's when the teen spotted the second suspect, in his second classroom.
It comes at a time when many others in the Brentwood community say they are living in fear. The bodies of six people, all believed to be murdered by gangs, were found in a month's time. Five of the deceased had at one point attended Brentwood High School.
Gang experts say dozens of students in the Brentwood schools are full-fledged gang members or gang associates.
Dave says police "definitely know for a fact" that the boys who assaulted his son are gang-affiliated. But he says he can't do anything about it.
"I was actually advised by the police officer in charge of the case not to do anything," he says. "If I was to press charges against the two kids we know of, it would only turn into retaliation from either the two boys, or more assailants that we don't know about."
But Dave says he doesn't fault the police officer for advising against pressing charges. "I think he's telling me the reality," he says.
News 12 asked Suffolk Police Commissioner Tim Sini about the case, and Sini disagreed.
"No, that's not a reality, and without commenting specifically on the situation, that's not the message Suffolk County Police Department wants to send," Sini says. "We need to have swift justice."
As Dave decides if it's worth the risk for his son, he says he's also gone to the school district demanding all suspected gang members be taken out of the school or put in an alternative school, but that has not happened.
"They say they cannot do anything to separate these kids, even though it was confirmed to me by the principal and the police officer in charge of the case that these kids have felony records," Dave says.
Brentwood Superintendent Levi McIntyre points out he is bound by state education law that demands the district provide an education to all children living in the district. He says when a juvenile is arrested, their records can be sealed or the case can be handled in family court.
"The board and I are doing everything we possibly can," says McIntyre. "If that particular individual is not causing any harm, bullying, et cetera, there may be very little we can do there."
Dave says that's unacceptable.
"They don't belong in a school system with other children," he says. "I wish I could figure out a way to demand change. You know, how many more dead children do we need until something gets done?"
While the school district has not removed the suspect from the school, it did move the boys to separate classrooms. The superintendent also says a "school monitor" is keeping an eye on all the boys allegedly involved in the incident.