Syracuse, N.Y. — The executive director of a non-profit has resigned after the group approved a party to be held on its property in Syracuse that ended with a shooting.
Gregorio Jimenez, the executive director of the Near Westside Initiative, stepped down Tuesday. The group held an emergency meeting on Monday to figure out what may have gone wrong in its approval process.
“Through this process, we have determined that certain policies regarding the rental of our facilities were not followed,” officials for the non-profit said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Nine people were injured in the shooting, including a 17-year-old, Chariel Osorio, who was critically injured and has been on life support since the shooting.
Initial evidence indicated the shooting was gang-related and that six people fired shots, according to the Onondaga County District Attorney. At least 25 shots were fired, a Facebook video that captured the shooting shows. No one has been arrested.
The non-profit’s board did not review the proposal for the party, which is the non-profit’s protocol, board president Sheena Solomon said. Solomon characterized its approval as “last minute.”
Jimenez was chosen to led the Near Westside Initiative in January of 2019. He grew up in the Near Westside and graduated from Fowler High School, Onondaga Community College and SUNY Oswego. He has not responded to multiple requests for comment from syracuse.com | The Post-Standard.
Jimenez attended the gathering and had to take cover from gunfire, according to Solomon.
Saturday’s party was held at Performance Park, which is overseen by The Near West Side Initiative, and was initially billed to local residents as a Black Lives Matter festival, according to an email obtained by syracuse.com | The Post-Standard. Solomon said the party was not affiliated with Black Lives Matter. It’s still unclear why the party was initially thought to be a Black Lives Matter gathering.
The party was “Rye Day,” a birthday party held for the last 14 years for Ryedell Davis. It was moved from its previous home on Syracuse Housing Authority property because of traffic and safety issues, according to the authority’s executive director. The five-hour event featured music, a cookout, a voter registration table and other festivities.
Solomon said it is possible the board would have approved a birthday party for its space at West Fayette and Wyoming streets. It regularly allows baby showers, parties and other joyful gatherings there. That’s the point of the space, and it would have been impossible to predict that a shooting like this would occur there, she said.
Joe Cecile, the Syracuse Police Department’s deputy chief, sits on the initiative’s board. Had the board considered the party proposal, Solomon said, she would have consulted with the deputy chief on whether moving the gathering was wise, especially in light of recent violence in Syracuse.
“I would have consulted Chief Cecile, because he knows more about the different areas. Does this make sense? Should we take extra precautions?” she said. “We have him as a resource on purpose.”
The organization has brought nearly $100 million into one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, transforming old factories into workspaces, apartments and other amenities, including Performance Park, which has a theater and an outdoor square.
City and police officials have said they did not have prior notice about the party.
Annetta Peterson, Davis’ mother, previously said that the event was always peaceful and never drew this kind of violence until it moved to the Near West Side. She has not answered subsequent phone calls about how the party.
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The Near Westside Initiative’s full statement about Jimenez stepping down is below:
The Near Westside Initiative deeply regrets the violence that took place at a private party that was held Saturday night in the Performance Park amphitheater and parking lot. We are heartbroken and our sympathy is with the nine shooting victims and their families, as well as event attendees and tenants of the nearby businesses and apartments traumatized by the senseless attack. Since its founding in 2007, our non-profit organization has worked to build a stronger community by partnering with neighbors and like-minded entities to improve the quality of life for everyone.
We are fully cooperating with the Syracuse Police Department in its investigation, including turning over security camera video footage. We urge people who attended the event, or anyone with information about the shooting, to contact police. The Near Westside Initiative is conducting an internal review of what led up to the event being held on our property. Through this process, we have determined that certain policies regarding the rental of our facilities were not followed. As a result, we have accepted the resignation of Executive Director Gregorio Jimenez. Working with the organization’s staff, the Executive Committee of the Near Westside Initiative Board will lead the non-profit until a new Executive Director is in place. We are also working to determine how the “Rye Day” private birthday party was originally erroneously described as a Black Lives Matter rally. This event was not connected in any way to Black Lives Matter.
The Near Westside Initiative Board of Directors is also reviewing the procedures for approving rentals of our space, which is designed as a place for neighbors to gather and foster stronger community bonds. We recognize the importance of maintaining the trust of neighbors, tenants and community partners. While no one could have predicted the violence that took place on Saturday night, we are focused on making sure that our space contributes positively to the progress being made in the neighborhood.