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Witnesses to the stray-bullet slaying of Brooklyn baby Davell Gardner may be afraid to come forward for fear of retribution by those involved, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Tuesday.
Department sources previously told The Post that a street code of silence and witness worries of being outed by state discovery laws were contributing to a lack of arrests since the horrific July murder.
“I think people know who did that case,” Shea said in a wide-ranging press briefing on Tuesday.
The top cop said that authorities are “trying to get prosecutions when you have at times less-than-willing … witnesses and other people involved.”
Investigators have said that Gardner, two months shy of his second birthday, was a collateral victim of a long-running war between rival Bedford-Stuyvesant gangs.
The tot was enjoying a family cookout near Raymond Bush Playground on July 12 when a stray slug fatally struck his stomach — as his horrified mother looked on.
Seeking two gunmen and a getaway driver, investigators have previously said that two men awaiting trial on unrelated murder cases were suspected in Gardner’s killing.
But a law-enforcement source has since said that one of those men no longer appears to have been involved, while the other remains uncharged.
Speaking generally, Shea said Tuesday that that problem is not uncommon.
“I would say we know who does the shooting 80 to 90 percent of the time,” he said. “It’s knowing and getting a district attorney to be comfortable with moving forward with the prosecution, with witnesses that sometimes change their story or tell you, ‘This is who did it but I am not going to court.’”
The passage last year of state discovery laws compelling prosecutors to turn over evidence and witness identities to defense attorneys in a timely manner is part of the problem, Shea said.
“We go to court and the first thing the district attorney says is ‘I have to tell you this: I’m going to try to protect your identity but I cannot protect your identity guaranteed,’” said Shea. “And people literally stand up and walk out of the district attorney’s office.”
A tweak to the law passed earlier this year grants judges the authority to provide additional shields for witnesses in sex-trafficking, organized crime and gang-related cases.
The NYPD is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in Gardner’s murder, which they can provide by calling 1-800-577-TIPS, or logging on to the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers website.
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