Crown Heights, Brooklyn: A Chronology


Crown Heights

UNITED STATES – CIRCA 2000: Mayor David Dinkins looks on while a Hasidic Jew and a black man argue during riots in Crown Heights. Rioting erupted after two black 7-year-olds, Gavin and Angela Cato, were hit by a car driven by a member of the Hasidic Jewish community. Gavin died. Hours later, Yankel Rosenbaum. a young Hasidic scholar, was attacked by a mob and fatally stabbed by Lemrick Nelson, a 16-year-old black.Street violence continued for days with confrontations between blacks and Hasidim. (Photo by Anthony Pescatore/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)


August 19

8:20 P.M. A station from a police-escorted entourage bearing Lubavitcher Grand Rebbe Menachem Schneerson careerns into two Guyanese American children at the intersection of Utica Avenue and President Street. Seven-year-old Gavin Cato is killed, and his cousin Angela suffers a broken leg. As an angry crowd gathers, the twenty-two-year-old Hasidic driver, Yosef Lifsh, and his two Hasidic passengers are taken from the scene by a private ambulance.

11:30 P.M. Three hours later and five blocks from the car accident, Yankel Rosenbaum, a visiting twenty-nine-year-old Hasidic history professor from Melbourne, Australia, is stabbed. Just after the incident, sixteen-year-old Lemrick Nelson, Jr., a Trinidadian American from Brooklyn, is arrested in connection with the stabbing.


August 20

2:00 A.M. Yankel Rosenbaum dies at Kings County Hospital.

PRE-DAWN Rioting begins on the streets, as Blacks and Lubavitchers set fires, throw stones and bottles, and unleash insults at each other and the police. The rioting continues throughout the day.

Yosef Lifsh leaves the United States for Israel.

By the end of the day, police report sixteen arrests and twenty policemen injured.


August 21

8:15 A.M. Yankel Rosenbaum’s funeral held at Lubavitch World Headquarters in Crown Heights. Afterward, Rosenbaum’s body is flown back to Australia for burial.

Rioting continues and several stores are looted.

Before leading a march of nearly two hundred Blacks down Eastern Parkway, the Reverend Al Sharpton and Alton Maddox hold a news conference demanding Yosef Lifsh’s arrest.

New York mayor David Dinkins and New York police Commissioner Lee Brown visit Crown Heights to urge peace, but both are silenced by rocks and bottles and insults.

Lemrick Nelson, Jr., is charged with the second-degree murder of Yankel Rosenbaum.


August 22

Rioting continues.

Police presence in Crown Heights is increased to over fifteen hundred officers. By the end of the day, police report 107 arrests overall.


August 24

Led by the Reverend Al Sharpton and Alton Maddox, approximately fifteen hundred protesters march through Crown Heights, while nearly as many police officers patrol the immediate area.  


August 26

Gavin Cato’s funeral is held in Brooklyn. The Reverend Al Sharpton delivers the eulogy.


September 5

The Brooklyn grand jury does not indict Yosef Lifsh in the death of Gavin Cato.


September 17

The Reverend Al Sharpton flies to Israel to notify Yosef Lifsh of a civil suit brought against him by the Cato family. The day is the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.


January 26, 1992

The Cato apartment is destroyed by fire. Fire officials determine the fire resulted from children playing with matches.


April 5

Lubavitchers demonstrate outside City Hall to mourn Yankel Rosenbaum and demand more arrests in connection with his slaying.


April 13

Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes says that it is unlikely there will be more arrests in connection with the death of Yankel Rosenbaum.  


October 29

5:20 P.M. Lemrick Nelson, Jr. is acquitted of all four counts charged against him in the killing of Yankel Rosenbaum.

8:40 P.M. More than one thousand Hasidic Jews rally outside Lubavitch headquarters in Crown Heights. Some bottle throwing and shouting matches ensue. Police report one arrest.

Mayor Dinkins offers a $10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of Yankel Rosenbaum’s murderer.


October 30

New York governor Mario Cuomo orders a state of review of the case.

New York police commissioner Raymond Kelly asks his chief of detectives, Joseph R. Borrelli, to review the entire case from the scene of the accident to the announcement of the verdict.


November 15

Despite Governor Cuomo’s assertion that Mayor Dinkins is being unfairly blamed for Rosenbaum’s death and the unrest in Crown Heights, the Hasidic community continues to harshly criticize the mayor for his handling of the riots.


November 17

The Lubavitch community files a federal class-action lawsuit alleging that the Dinkins administration and police department refused to conduct “any meaningful investigation” into the rioting and failed to “seek perpetrators aggressively.”


Source: Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights and other Identities by Anna Deavere Smith