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Queens crime victims share experiences with public

An Oakland Gardens judge whose home had been fired upon and the father of a young man killed by a drunk driver were among several poignant speakers at an event hosted by the Queens district attorney’s office as part of a national week to honor victims of crime.

Queens DA Richard Brown joined the families of borough residents whose loved ones were lost to violence at the Queens County Courthouse in Kew Gardens last Thursday as part of the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

The DA said the event was meant to “offer compassion and assistance to those recovering from acts of violence.”

Queens Supreme Court Judge Fernando Camacho, whose home in Oakland Gardens was riddled by bullets in August 2008, told more than 150 attendees at the event that all victims of crime must be “treated with dignity, respect and fairness.”

“I’m a crime victim myself,” Camacho said. “My 5-year-old son’s trophy was scattered on the floor by a bullet. I felt vulnerability, helplessness and rage.”

Camacho’s family was out of town at the time of the shooting, so no one was injured.

Other families described the losses they had suffered when their children fell victim to violent crimes.

“The impact of a loss of a child cannot be described,” said Middle Village’s Brendan Ogle, whose son, Robert, 16, was killed after a drunk driver who had stolen a car struck him near his home. “Not a day goes by that I don’t relive that day. Robert’s optimism and joy for life were palpable. We were a happy family, but that happiness was stolen from us by a thief and a murderer.”

Robert Ogle had been at Brooklyn Tech High School and played football with the Queens Falcons.

Laurelton’s Yvette Titus briefly discussed the January 2004 shooting death of her son, Karim Titus, 20. She was too overcome with emotion, so her cousin, Patricia Cabell-Lee, took over.

“When my cousin lost her son, I can’t tell you the emotional roller coaster we were on,” she told the audience.

The Titus family presented a plaque to Jack Warsawsky, deputy chief of the homicide trials bureau of the DA’s office, for his work on the case.

“In a way, I was glad to meet her, but I knew every time she spoke to me it would bring back the death of her son,” Warsawsky said of Titus. “I hope the coming years will bring some joy to their lives.”

Bradford Washington received a 25-years-to-life sentence for the shooting.

A video of crime victims was shown to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Gone Too Soon” and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” as family members wept in the audience during one of the event’s more somber moments.

Schoolchildren from Astoria’s Frank Sinatra School of the Arts performed “Stand Together” and “I Believe” to rousing ovations from the audience, while students from PS 106 in the Rockaways sang along and danced to Marvin Gaye’s 1971 anti-violence tune “What’s Going On?”

Tina Stafford, chairwoman of the state Crime Victims Board, said she hoped the event would inspire borough residents to do their part to prevent crime.

“We hope this is a call to action to not drink and drive, to say something if you see something, to make a call if you know someone’s being abused, to make sure justice is done,” she said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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