First Responders

Governor’s Aide Gets Shot, Heroes Step In

The medic knew the gunshot victim was a fighter as he lay in the streets of Bed-Stuy, struggling for his life. Only later did she learn he was a top aide to New York’s governor.

The man had a grievous gunshot wound on the left side of his head and a huge hematoma on the right.

But he was still breathing as Shanida Robinson of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps applied the Ambu-bag’s face mask.

“Keep breathing! Keep breathing!” she was telling him.

She began squeezing the air-giving ventilator to assist him.

“Keep breathing! Keep breathing! We got you. We’re going to get you to the hospital, man. Just keep breathing!”

Her partner, Shamekia Wright, took over squeezing the bag as Robinson set to checking the man’s vital signs. Robinson pressed the fingertips of one hand to the man’s wrist while simultaneously doing the same with the fingertips of her other hand to his neck.

The peripheral pulse at the wrist was so faint as to make her worry they were losing him, but the carotid pulse in the neck was strong. She raised a penlight. His eyes reacted. She discerned a spark of life.

“I’d say he was a fighter,” she would recall. “He didn't give up.”

Robinson took over the Ambu-bag again. The parking area where she knelt was adjacent to the housing complex that occupies the onetime site of Ebbets Field. As many as 30 shell casings littered the street where at least one gunman had begun firing wildly into the crowd that was out celebrating J’ouvet, the early-Monday-morning run-up to Brooklyn’s huge annual West Indian Day Parade.

A stray round had struck the man and now here he was, his valiant fight for life marked by the pulsing of his carotid artery as the air itself pulsed with the music of the J’ouvet bands. Robinson noted that the man was neatly attired in khakis, not the carnival attire sported by many of the people who continued to party and paint each other in the surrounding streets. She saw a glint on his left hand.

“I saw his wedding ring,” she would remember. “That’s the thing that stood out for me.”

She was already working as hard as she could, but that gold band made it all the more important that he survive. Two fellow volunteer medics, Allah Smalls and James Pointer, had been busy applying a pressure dressing to the wound and securing a neck collar and getting the man onto a backboard and stabilizing his head.

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An ambulance from Senior Care was closer than their own ambulance, so they loaded the man into that one. Robinson climbed in along with Wright. Robinson kept squeezing the Ambu-bag and telling the man to breathe as they sped toward nearby Kings County Hospital.

Upon arriving, Robinson reported to the waiting trauma team that the man’s vital signs were stable.

“This guy is breathing,” she announced.

She remained by his side, assisting as the doctors and nurses set to work. She stepped away only when there was no longer any chance she could help.

She noticed that more cops and officials were arriving at the emergency room than might be expected for a shooting.

“Then one of the officers told me that it’s somebody from Cuomo’s office,” Robinson would recall.

The man proved to be 43-year-old Carey Gabney. He had been raised in a Bronx housing project and he had gone on to Harvard, where he had been president of the undergraduate student council. He then proceeded to Harvard Law and a Wall Street firm, but he had decided that he needed to do more. He took a huge pay cut to work for Governor Andrew Cuomo, first as a legal assistant, then as the first deputy counsel to Empire State Development Corporation, New York State’s lead economic development agency. He had been out with a younger brother and friends celebrating his Jamaican roots with the J’ouvet crowd.

Robison asked a reporter to convey a message to Cuomo.

“Let him know we did everything to keep him alive,” she said. “Without even knowing.”

She meant without knowing Gabney was a state official.

“That’s how we treat everybody,” she added,

Back at the scene of the shooting, Gabey’s blood was drying to a deep red in the midday sun. Police recovered a .45 caliber MC-10 semi-automatic. Crime scene investigators set yellow evidence markers by the shell casings scattered in the street between the Ebetts Field site and Medgar Evers College. A neighborhood woman who had heard the flurry of shots just after 3 a.m. remarked that it was like going back more than a decade to when the neighborhood was jarringly violent.

“It has seemed safe for years and years and years,” she said.

Robinson and her fellow medics were six blocks away, having returned to their staging area. Their usual base and training center is another 30 blocks away, but they had positioned themselves on the parade route around the clock since the approach of Labor Day weekend, sleeping in the ambulance.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

Their proximity to the shooting scene enabled them to be there in just moments. And that had given the fighter a fighting chance.

Shanida Robinson is the daughter of Commander Rocky Robinson, who founded the BSVAC back in 1988, when it did not yet have an ambulance and the members would grab their equipment and run down the street on calls. She signed on as a teen and is now 38, an instructor as well as a medic.

“I was going to go into law,” she said. “Then I realized that it really wasn’t my calling. My calling is to make a difference not just in saving lives but training people to save as many lives as possible.”

The morning was turning into a broiling afternoon and the main parade had started up, the mega music blasting from huge truck-borne speakers. You could feel the beat at the center of your chest, making you consider that the very first music must have sprung from the human heartbeat, the pulsing such as Robinson had felt under her fingertips, the thumping of life itself.

As Robinson and the BSVAC crew stood ready to assist anybody who might need them, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Senator Chuck Schumer strode past. So did Cuomo.

“He was in the middle,” Robinson reported. “We didn’t get the chance to talk to him.”

Cuomo had spoken to Gabey’s family, having stopped at the hospital before marching. He spoke afterwards to reporters about the need to curb the continuing gun madness. He issued the call again on Tuesday.

“How many weeks do we have to have with the same story over and over and over about the insanity that this country is allowing to continue with violence and loss of life of innocent people, because we have people who have no business having guns having guns?” Cuomo asked.

He understood that no matter what laws New York passes, no matter how many guns cops take off the streets, the carnage will continue unless the country as a whole moves to stop the flow of illegal guns. He is aware that gun homicides are up across the country. Chicago saw 54 people shot over Labor Day weekend, eight fatally, including a young woman who was attending a memorial gathering for another gun victim.

“The only way to deal with this is a national gun policy,” Cuomo rightly said.

In the meantime, the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps will continue going from shooting to shooting. The Robinsons and the other BSVAC instructors trained the medics who were the first on the scene after two cops were shot as they sat in their squad car in Brooklyn just before Christmas. BSVAC also trained the medics who joined Shanida in the effort to save Gabay.

Robinson had not been able to save a father of two who had been mortally wounded by a stray round fired by a 14-year-old aboard a city bus in March 2014. She now could only hope for a better outcome with Gabay, who was listed in critical condition.

“I keep listening to the news,” she said on Tuesday morning.

She would remember the wedding band and the pulsing that told her he was a fighter.