Thousands of people are denied compensation every year for reasons having nothing to do with the crime itself.
The cold formality of the letter is seared in Debra Long’s memory.
It began “Dear Claimant,” and said her 24-year-old son, Randy, who was fatally shot in April 2006, was not an “innocent” victim. Without further explanation, the New York state agency that assists violent-crime victims and their families refused to help pay for his funeral.
Randy was a father, engaged to be married and studying to become a juvenile probation officer when his life was cut short during a visit to Brooklyn with friends. His mother, angry and bewildered by the letter, wondered: What did authorities see — or fail to see — in Randy?
“It felt racial. It felt like they saw a young African American man who was shot and killed and assumed he must have been doing something …