Watch CBS News

Emotional Mayor Eric Adams Demands New Yorkers Do More To Help Young People Avoid Falling Victim To Gun Violence

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- With the pandemic of gun violence becoming the tragic focal point of his first days in office, Mayor Eric Adams is challenging both his administration and the city's religious leaders to find ways to prevent the city's youth from becoming the trigger pullers of tomorrow.

As CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported, the mayor gave two mesmerizing speeches Thursday, including one lamenting the recent death of an 18-year-old whose killing galvanized hizzoner to action.

Jayquan McKenley was killed early Sunday morning at the intersection of Greene and Lewis avenues in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

WATCH: Mayor Eric Adams Addresses Gun Violence In Speech At City Hall --

"The story of Jayquan breaks my heart. His story tests my spirit, and we must do better for young people like him," Adams said. "I didn't know Jayquan, but his death hit me hard."

McKenley was a rapper who lived in seven homeless shelters, missed 250 days of high school, and at 18 was arrested for attempted murder. He was shot dead, never making it to his 19th birthday.

"It's not the profile of a killer, but the shadow of a system that isn't working the way it should," Adams said.

The mayor struggled to maintain his composure because, he said, he knew what it was like to walk in McKenley's shoes.

"I was once a Jayquan, too. I knew what it was like to worry about losing your apartment, your stability ... I've been on that path of pain, and I know there's a way out, but it's not a road we travel alone," Adams said.

And as he tries to find solutions to the gun violence plaguing the city, the mayor talked about the other side of the story, not the cops he wants to stop gun trafficking, but kids growing up in poverty who, he says, have been failed by the city and failed by society.

Adams challenged the schools, the social service agencies, and the criminal justice system to find ways to reach the thousands of the young Jayquans here before it's too late.

Watch Marcia Kramer's report --

"If a thousand children were buried by an earthquake, we would dig until our hands were bloody, until every last one of them was saved," Adams said. "Right now, we must move heaven and earth to help all the young people out there who are on the same path that Jayquan was on. We have a social, moral, human obligation to help all our children."

Earlier, Adams addressed the city's religious leaders at his first interfaith breakfast, challenging them to leave their pulpits, their churches, and their synagogues and temples to reach those turning to a life of crime.

WATCH: Mayor Eric Adams Addresses Interfaith Community -- 

"You want to end gun violence? Lets go to the streets and talk to those young men that are pulling the triggers, letting you know that you believe in them," Adams said. "You can't be just a preacher. You can't be just a rabbi. You can't be just a cop. You can't be just a doctor. You've got to go beyond that and give justice to people who are in need. This is the moment to go beyond who we are and move to the level of who we can become."

And the mayor told the religious leaders not to worry if they face criticism, because, he said, "Lions don't lose sleep over the opinions of the sheep. Be the lion and the lioness."

CBS2's Maurice DuBois contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.