BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The grief-stricken stepfather of an 18-year-old Lower East Side youth gunned down on the street Sunday raged that the city has become a “Wild, Wild West” — and that the police, mayor and governor are all to blame.
Eliahs Brazoban was shot once in the neck outside the Rivington Food deli, at the corner of Rivington and Pitt Streets, on Sat., June 24, going into Sun., June 25, right around midnight. Responding police found him with a single gunshot wound to the neck. He was declared dead at New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital.
Although as a young child he grew up in the Bronx, when he was around 9 or 10, Brazoban moved down to 555 F.D.R. Drive, in the Baruch Houses, two buildings north of the Williamsburg Bridge.
Brazoban had had run-ins with the law in the past, but his stepdad, Isaac Valerio, said the young man had been trying to turn his life around. Since July 2021, Brazoban had been a participant with Avenues for Justice, an East Village-based, alternatives-to-incarceration program.
However, the teen, who had just turned 18, had apparently recently been involved in a robbery only around three months ago, Valerio had to bail him out. Nevertheless, the youth was getting help and the future was looking hopeful, his stepdad and local advocates said.
“I just bailed him out!” Valerio said, in anguish, “and [Avenues for Justice] was gonna get him a summer job. He was executed!” he shouted, furiously. “My son was executed from behind. He was shot in the head from behind.
“I want everyone to know,” he stressed. “Please get the story out. This is a Wild, Wild f—ing West! This needs to stop! It’s going to be a summer from hell. And it’s going to get worse.”
Asked if he felt the killing was part of the senseless feud between the Up the Hill Gang, from the Baruch Houses, and the Down the Hill Gang, from the East Village housing developments, he said, yes, definitely.
“It’s just a neighborhood thing,” he said. “It’s my neighborhood against your neighborhood — and we’re gonna kill someone and then we’re going to rap about it on YouTube.”
Any kind of violence-glorifying video like that needs to be pulled down by YouTube immediately, he angrily declared, blaming social-media companies for their role in the bloodshed.
The Seventh Precinct is located just on the other side of the Williamsburg Bridge from the murder scene. Usually, right at the intersection where Brazoban was killed, there is a police Sky Watch tower that’s manned by an officer at night. According to Valerio, though, the tower wasn’t there the night his stepson was slain.
“How can he possibly get killed two blocks away from a New York City police precinct?” Valerio asked, incredulously. “They usually have a police post there. And right now, at the start of the summer, it’s not there. I’m sure that now it’ll be there. The police failed. They know that’s a high-crime, high-shooting spot. How dare they take that out of there?”
Brazoban’s Facebook page shows photos of him from 2020, sometimes with one friend, sometimes with two, one taken on a Baruch Houses rooftop, and they appear to be flashing gang signs and even making the sign of a gun in one of them.
“He was in a gang when he was a lot younger,” Valerio said. “Yeah, I made him leave all that. I made him drop all of that — and he did, he did. He wasn’t in the street like that.”
Brazoban would sometimes stay with his stepdad in the Bronx but preferred to be with his mother on the Lower East Side, where his friends were.
The most recent robbery Brazoban was charged with involved stealing a jacket. Valerio said it wasn’t just Brazoban but a group of youths who did it, that one guy may have had a weapon, and that Brazoban took the fall.
“The thing was,” he said, “my son was a follower. A lot of times, they make him the scapegoat because he was so big and sluggish.”
Valerio said he would warn the teen to stay away from the street life.
“I said, ‘You’re too big. … You didn’t grow up in the street,'” he said. “It wasn’t that he was a bad kid.”
Brazoban liked basketball — not surprising since he was tall — and music.
“He started rapping,” Valerio said.
In the past, the teen had done some petty crimes, including stealing clothes or swiping sneakers from Foot Locker. He was also busted during the riots and looting in Soho after George Floyd’s death in police custody in May 2020.
“He did get arrested during the riots,” Valerio said. “He got caught up. I had to bail him out.”
His stepdad said that it was after he and Brazoban’s mom divorced that he felt the youth, unfortunately, started to get into more trouble.
Valerio raged against the political powers that be and a lawless situation in which young teens are now increasingly carrying firearms.
“These kids don’t give a f— about the law,” he railed.
Asked if he felt the Raise the Age legislation from 2018 — which changed it so that youths under age 18 would not be prosecuted as adults — was behind some of the gun violence, he said, “That’s part of it.”
Something needs to change, he declared.
“From the governor to the mayor on down — nobody’s voting for them,” he said. “I don’t even know how they’re getting elected! This is bulls—!”
Personally, Valerio actually thinks that only when everyone else in New York City over the age of 18 is allowed to carry guns will the gun violence finally stop since it will “even the playing field.”
He said Brazoban was on a better path, which involved him getting his high school G.E.D. degree. He was strongly encouraging his stepson to join the Army.
He said the memorial and funeral will likely be in New Jersey because it’s just too expensive to do it in Manhattan.
In late 2020, Avenues for Justice began working with young people in the New York City Law Department’s Family Court Division’s “diversion” program. Youths up to age 18 assigned to the program must attend community-based, alternatives-to-incarceration organizations, such as AFJ, for a specific number of sessions or workshops within a short-term, 60-day period. After the 60-day mandate, AFJ encourages diversion participants to use its HIRE UP program services.
Brozoban had completed his diversion mandate and, through AFJ, had recently done an eight-week paid internship with Stuart Cinemas.
Gamal Willis, the director of court advocacy for Avenues for Justice, said, “Many of us had a connection with Eliahs, whether through our Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) last year, workshops, the Andy Awards [for videos by program participants] or individual counseling sessions. He was a beloved member of the Avenues for Justice community and he was just recently in our internship program at Stuart Cinema. Eliahs was known for his big heart and entertaining personality, making this loss truly devastating.”
Elizabeth Frederick, Avenues for Justice’s chief operating officer, said, “It is very important to us here at Avenues for Justice that, for all of our young people we tragically lose, to make sure that the human element of their lives is told and the stories of how they were turning their lives around is shared.”