Adams appoints AT Mitchell ‘gun violence czar,’ waves away concerns about DOI probe

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Mayor Eric Adams rallies with violence interruptors on City Hall steps. Thursday, June 2, 2022.
Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

As shooting incidents are on the decline, Mayor Eric Adams Thursday announced he’s appointing anti-violence group leader Andre T. Mitchell as the city’s new “gun violence czar” ahead of an expected surge in shootings during the summer months.

Mitchell will be the co-chair of a new city task force to address gun violence with Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives Sheena Wright, Adams said at a press conference on the steps of City Hall.

“AT [who] is a long advocate in this space that I have known for 30 years,” Adams said. “Thirty years of being on the ground, of fighting hard for this issue. Some people have said, ‘what about his background?’ We’re not looking for a nun, we’re looking for someone that’s not afraid to be in the street and embrace our people. We’re looking for the right person for the job and AT is the right person for the job.”

Adams was joined in the announcement by several City Council Members including Nantasha Willams (D – Queens), Kevin Riley (D – Bronx) and Althea Stevens (D – Bronx). As well as representatives from anti-violence groups across the city that make up the Crisis Management System (CMS).

Other task force members will include every deputy mayor, Adams said, Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor David Banks and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell.

“Everyone that impacts or touches the lives of young people will be part of the solution of dealing with gun violence because we can’t continue to believe that because you made an arrest you solved the problem,” Adams said. “The problem is why are children having or feeling they have the need to have guns in the first place? That is where the failure is taking place.”

While shooting incidents are down 34 percent over the past month, Adams said, this new task force is a necessary part of preventing future shootings.

Mitchell, who will be serving in this role in a volunteer capacity, said this is a community-driven approach and it’s members of the communities who experience gun violence the most who best understand how to stop it.

“We’ve been dealing with this system for far too long and we’ve been using the same tactics over and over again and we’ve been getting the same results,” Mitchell said. “So, no one should have a problem with us trying something different. Give us a chance to prove our self worth. We are the people who are closest to the problem. So quite naturally, we have the answers to those problems. There’s nobody that wants gun violence to end more than the young people that come from the neighborhoods and the people who live in this community every single day.”

Mitchell is the founder of the Brooklyn-based anti-violence group Man Up, which was criticized by the city Department of Investigation (DOI) in 2019 because Mitchell employed several of his relatives in the organization – violating his contract with the city. The group was founded in 2003 after the murder of an 8-year-old boy and is geared toward combating gun violence by interrupting violent incidents before they escalate.

Man Up also hosts after-school programs and job trainings.

In responding to a reporter’s question about Adams’ vetting process for the position and the DOI investigation, he said he vetted Mitchell by knowing and working with him for three decades.

“This is a 30 year relationship of a person who I have witnessed on the ground at shootings. On the ground talking to people who are in gangs, getting them out of gangs. On the ground, getting people to disarm themselves. That’s a 30 year relationship. So I don’t want people to see me in their resume and telling me what they did that other people know about. I only had to vet one person, AT Mitchell. He was the right person for the job. Because of my long relationships of being on the ground, I don’t have to find people, I have relationships with people. And so the DOI did their investigation, they came up with recommendations, he followed the recommendations.”

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