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Black Man Testifies He Carried Bats to White Friends in Racial Attack

April 25, 1990 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ A black man testified he helped supply baseball bats to a group of white neighbors just before a black teen-ager was attacked and shot to death in what prosecutors allege was a racial slaying.

Joseph Russell Gibbons, 21, said Tuesday at the murder trial of two white men that he and others were carrying bats ″to defend ourselves ... from the 25 guys who were supposed to come″ to their Brooklyn neighborhood that night.

Gibbons said he did not see the shooting, but shortly afterward, a white youth came up to him and said, ″Joe Fama just shot a black kid around the corner.″


Joseph Fama, the accused triggerman, and Keith Mondello, the alleged ringleader of the white mob, are on trial, charged with murder in the slaying of Yusuf Hawkins, a black 16-year-old.

Hawkins and three of his friends, all black, were set upon by a bat- wielding white mob on the night of Aug. 23 after traveling to Bensonhurst to look at a used car, prosecutors said. Hawkins was shot in the chest, allegedly by Fama, 19.

The slaying raised racial tensions to a fever pitch in the city during its mayoral campaign.

The trial was scheduled to resume today.

In other testimony Tuesday, Luther Sylvester, one of Hawkins’ friends, said he and his friends were walking down the street when ″some white boys ran around the corner and surrounded us. ... They were shaking their bats saying, ’Is this them? Is this them?‴

Within seconds, the high school senior said, he heard gunshots and saw Hawkins on the ground, blood flowing from his chest. The whites fled, he said.

Sylvester, who was not hurt, said he saw no gun and could not identify any members of the gang.

Gibbons, who has lived most of his life in the mainly white, Italian- American neighborhood, told the jurors that on the night of the attack, Mondello, 19, had come to him for help.

Prosecutors say a young woman, Gina Feliciano, had threatened to bring 25 or more of her black and Hispanic friends to her home to celebrate her 18th birthday.

″Keith asked me if I would be there to defend himself because Gina said she had 20 to 25 black and Puerto Rican friends coming down to trash the store and beat him up,″ Gibbons said.

Gibbons said that as the whites assembled in a schoolyard and outside a candy store, his best friend, 22-year-old Charles Stressler, asked him to help carry a box of bats from Stressler’s home. He testified he carried the box and put it down outside the candy store.

″I didn’t see who exactly had the bats,″ he said, but testified that about 30 whites had assembled and about half were wielding bats.

Six other whites charged in the attack are to be tried later.