MAYS LANDING — Denise Dickens cried when her brother called Thursday night to say two men had been arrested for killing his son.
On Friday, the tears came again as brothers Hasan and Jamal Bruce appeared in court separately to hear the charges against them in the killing of Zachary Taylor, 19.
The Mays Landing man was gunned down in Atlantic City’s Westside just before 9:30 p.m. June 18, the city’s ninth homicide this year and its fifth by gun violence.
Hasan, 19, and Jamal, 21, of Atlantic City, are now charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and weapons offenses in the killing.
“Coming up there was violence,” Taylor’s father, Ted, said outside the courtroom Friday. “But we fought. Now, it’s pulling a gun out.”
It’s a life Taylor wrote about as Zooty Bang.
“We’re everywhere with Army guns,” he rapped in “Grinding Hard,” a song he posted on YouTube just four days before he was killed. It talks of drugs and “rockin’ the hood with a bag full of guns.”
Atlantic City is currently on pace for a record number of killings. Fifteen people have been killed in the city this year — the most since 2006, when 18 people were killed.
With the arrest of the Bruce brothers at their North Indiana Avenue home, there are people charged in two-thirds of the city’s homicides. That rate is better than the county’s, which just passed 50 percent with 11 of the 21 homicides resulting in arrests so far.
Taylor was on the cusp of making it as a rapper when he was killed, his mother, Leilanai Cranmer, has said. She wasn’t in court Friday, as she is still in California, where she had been waiting for her son to travel to pursue his career.
Instead she got a call that he had been killed. She has said she begged him to get out of Atlantic City. But he had told her in their last phone call that he had one thing to do before he left.
She would never hear her son’s voice again.
“I just don’t get how people out here are doing what they’re doing,” said Maria Diaz, of Atlantic City, who has been on a mission since Taylor — a friend of her daughter — was killed.
Her car now bears Zooty’s name and a message telling people to put down their guns and pick up the phone to call Crimestoppers.
“Love doesn’t make you a snitch,” it says.
But she said the car has made her a target. The message has come with a price, including threats to her family. At one point, she had six cameras up at her windows so there would be evidence if anyone came for her and her family.
Diaz has no intention of stopping, though. She even joined the Guardian Angels.
“When you’re really wrapped up with God and you believe he can protect you, he does,” she said. “I learned that myself. Every day.”
In court, Hasan and Jamal Bruce told Superior Court Judge Michael Donio that they would hire lawyers.
As Hasan was led out before Jamal came in, he yelled, “I love you,” to a group there for him and his brother.
Both men were being held in the Atlantic County jail on $1 million cash bail each. No new court dates have been set.
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