Aftermath
6:21 pm
Mon August 11, 2014

Hardemon: AK-47 Shootings In Liberty City Are Domestic Terrorism

Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon represents Liberty City.
Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon represents Liberty City.
Credit Allison Diaz / Miami Herald

Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon was born and raised in Liberty City.

When he was elected into office eight months ago to represent District 5, Miami’s poorest district, he noted his personal connection to the area in his acceptance speech.

Hardemon, 30, was born in the James E. Scott public-housing  projects in Liberty City to a single mom.

He says he's experienced some of the storylines that come out of the neighborhood first-hand.

“I’ve had family members that have been shot on 62nd Street, so I know what that phone call feels like," he says, "to wonder if your loved one is dead or alive."

When he received a text from the city in June alerting him that a mass shooting happened in Liberty City, he says the news of yet more murders in his district was not surprising.

“To me, these incidents are all too familiar within our community,” he says.

While locals greet him with familiarity and hugs when he walks down the streets, the freshman commissioner says he knows he has to prove himself.

As the homegrown son who made it, he says “the weight is heavy, very heavy.”

When Hardemon talks about how to better Liberty City, it’s usually in terms of bringing more funding into the neighborhood to spur economic development, and that in turn will reduce the staggering crime in the neighborhood, he concludes.

“At the end of the day, the reason we have violence in our community as much as we have it is because we don’t have economic development,” he says. “We don’t have jobs, we don’t have businesses.  We don’t have sufficient and affordable housing.”

His views on how to fix the neighborhood are not necessarily embraced by his colleagues on the commission.

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff says millions have been spent in Liberty City over the years and he has not seen much improvement.

“The definition of insanity is doing the exact same thing, but expecting a different result,” says Sarnoff. “So, what I’d like to see is how much money has been put in [Liberty City], in what way has this money been put in there and maybe finding a different strategy.”

Hardemon is also calling for federal intervention to help fight Liberty City’s gang problem. He says the violence in Liberty City is comparable to that in Chicago.

"I have an interest in raising the gun violence into a national issue," he says. "To me, this is about domestic terrorism. Anytime you take an AK-47 and AR-15 and you shoot 10 people, you’re really and truly terrorizing the community."

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado does not believe the city needs federal help to fight crime in Liberty City. And he doesn't think the gangs reach the level of organized crime.

Regalado says the real issue hindering police investigations is that Liberty City residents won't cooperate with police.

"If we only had the component of residents saying what they know," says Regalado, "I think we can solve this problem without outside help."

Hardemon says he doesn't believe the other city commissioners or the mayor view the issues in Liberty City as a a city-wide problem.

"It's only a problem in my community," he says.

This story is the second installment of the series "Aftermath: Beyond the Bullets in Liberty City," which looks at the inner-city Miami neighborhood after deadly shootings.