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Woo Cho Bang Bang

Join a gang, shoot a classmate, go to jail for a few decades: business as usual for some kids in Brownsville, murder capital of New York City.

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Sahiah Davis and Nathaniel Walcott crossed paths a number of times during childhood, but the last came on April 25, 2011, the night she shot him. They were both 16 and lived in Brownsville, the Brooklyn neighborhood where their parents had also spent much of their lives. Nathaniel was on a bicycle, in search of something to eat. Near a playground on Bristol Street at around 11 p.m., Sahiah and several boys stepped toward him.

Sahiah was five-nine and still growing, all limbs and shoulder blades, with a heart-shaped face and a straightened Afro that crested in a row of bangs. She liked dancing and double Dutch, and in ninth grade played on her high-school basketball team. Her father, James Davis, called her “the Kobe Bryant of Westinghouse,” the ­vocational school in Downtown Brooklyn. She was known as “Oozi,” which everybody thought sounded like “Uzi” but which her parents insisted was an innocent sobriquet, derived from the very moment she entered the world.

“She wasn’t named for no gun,” her father said. “She was Oozi because when her mother had the C-section, I seen how our daughter ooze out of her belly.”

Nathaniel, for his part, went by “AC.” “Those were the only letters he knew when he tried to sing the alphabet when he was little,” his sister LaToya explained. He was handsome like a TV actor—warm eyes, optimistic countenance—and crazy about cooking shows on TV. “He really thought he was a chef,” LaToya said. “He specialized in breakfast: weirdo omelettes, pancakes with Fruity Pebbles crushed in the batter.”

AC and LaToya were the youngest of five siblings taken in by Charles and Delores Walcott, a tailor and a retired juvenile-­correction officer who had already raised several children of their own in a narrow, two-family house on Grafton Street. To the kids’ friends, their living room was a marvel of resourcefulness, paneled with mirrors and full of exotica like the giant white-­marble statue of a Borzoi salvaged from sidewalk refuse and dozens of Ghanaian paintings Charles purchased and lugged through Customs decades ago.

Sahiah and AC attended different schools but had known one another since they were 7 or 8 years old. That was when her babysitter, who was dating one of AC’s older brothers, brought her along on visits to his house. And by middle school, the two had similar problems. “She had a short temper,” Sahiah’s father said. “She’d fight a lot. You know how girls are.” AC, his sister said, “was spoiled—the baby. When things didn’t go his way, he tended to act out.” At 14, he was expelled from P.S. 327 for getting in fistfights with other kids and with teachers. A court remanded him to Lincoln Hall Boys’ Haven, a reform school in upper Westchester County. “He had more fun in two years there than here,” LaToya said. “He’d bring home wooden stuff he made in shop. He learned how to cut hair, doing fades or shaving words into the side of his friends’ heads.” Still, he missed home and came back on weekends as much as he could get away with.

“It sounds crazy, but he couldn’t resist the pull of Brownsville,” LaToya said. “This place was all he knew.” When Sunday nights rolled around, he’d hide at his best friend’s apartment and try to go AWOL from the return bus.

At 15, AC joined a friend’s neighborhood gang called Hoodstarz. Sahiah was also a member, but by 2011 she had left to run with a different crew, the Wave Gang. Their friends think her switch had to do with a new boyfriend who was in the Waves, and that, to make good on it, she decided to shoot one of her former allies from Hoodstarz.

So it was that AC, home for Easter break, encountered Sahiah as he tried to ride his bike down Bristol Street.

“Cho!” he yelled out to her.

“Woo!” she and the boys with her replied.

Any Brownsville teenager who happened to hear the exchange would have immediately understood. “Cho” was the Hoodstarz greeting, the equivalent of AC flashing a gang sign; “Woo” was the Wave Gang’s code word. Sahiah and the Waves were telling AC that they did not come in peace.

They quickly surrounded him. She held a gun close to her midsection like a desk worker with a coffee mug and fired at AC. A bullet entered his back sideways and ripped forward through his torso, ­destroying several organs, according to his autopsy.

“He was trying to … ride off, but it looked like his foot went off the pedal,” a witness later testified. His body fell to the ground.


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