Victims of Newburgh’s violence remembered


Miguel Cruz, right, remembers two young victims, including his daughter, Tabitha, 20,
killed a year and a half ago

NEWBURGH – It was early Sunday morning, October 30, 2016 when gunshots rang out at a Halloween party in rented space at 119 Broadway in the City of Newburgh. Two young women, Tabitha Cruz, 20, and Omani Free, 18, were shot and killed. Five others were wounded.
In their memories and the others killed in Newburgh’s violence, a vigil was held Sunday evening as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
Tabitha Cruz was the daughter of Miguel Cruz, who attended the vigil.
“She meant so much to me,” Cruz said. “I raised her the best way I could and I put so much time and effort into making her the woman that she was and some ignorant person just takes her from me just like that. It’s not fair.”
Rhonda Valentine-Free, the mother of the other victim, Omani Free, reflected on her daughter’s short life.
“Very smart. Struggled with school in the beginning and she just blossomed, and she was funny and cared about people,” Ms. Free said.

Tabitha Cruz, left, and Omani Free

Newburgh’s new police chief, Douglas Solomon, said the department has come a long way since then.
“We have seen a drastic reduction in both bullet-to-body shootings and homicides and I want to keep that energy going,” he said. “For the folks here who have loved ones who have fallen victims to crime, it’s too little too late, I want to pay my condolences to them and reassure them that the police department is here for them and the community at large.”
Solomon said the police department has become a model for other police agencies as far as its group violence initiative is concerned.
Mr. Cruz said the police department’s Shot Spotter program and street cameras have put a dent in crime in recent times and he hopes the police continue to curb the violence in Newburgh. 

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