Police are looking for a man who may be connected to two different stabbings in East New York in just a few days.
Police said it is possible the same man who stabbed two children Sunday also knifed an 18-year-old woman to death on Friday night. An investigation identified several common factors between the crimes, including the use of a similar type of weapon in all three.
Police said 6-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto, a cousin of Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson, was stabbed in his torso inside an elevator of the Boulevard Houses on Schenck Avenue near Stanley Avenue at about 5:50 p.m. A 7-year-old girl, identified by her mother as Mikayla Capers, was also stabbed in the elevator, suffering multiple torso wounds from a steak knife, police said.
They were both taken to Brookdale Hospital, where Avitto, known as “PJ,” was pronounced dead, police said.
Mikayla was transferred to New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center where she is awake and alert, said her mother, Sherina Capers.
In another incident on Friday night, 18-year-old Tanaya Copeland, an aspiring nurse, was found stabbed to death just blocks away, suffering from dozens of wounds, officials said. She was found by a cab driver around 10:30 p.m. and taken to Brookdale Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The two children were on a trip for ice cream when the attack occurred, family members said. They have been best friends for years. The stabbings seemed to be unprovoked, said Community Activist Tony Herbert. Mikayla was stabbed about 15 times, he added.
PJ's father, Nicholas Avitto, said his son loved basketball and often pretended to be a superhero. He would have turned 7 later this month. Avitto said he walked to his son’s school yesterday morning, backpack in hand, as if PJ were still alive.
"I'm going to miss my beloved baby son," Avitto, 56, said. "I'm trying to stay strong. It's a shame. He took my little boy away from me."
PJ's uncle, Scott Avitto, added that the boy loved math.
His mother, who didn’t give her name, said she prayed the murder suspect would be caught. Crying and visibly shaking, she was helped along by a group of friends and family on Monday.
“This shouldn’t happen to nobody, Lord,” she cried. “We’re going to get him.”
Gibson, a five-year Bulls veteran who grew up in Fort Greene, posted a photo of his cousin on Instagram.
“They killed my lil superman,” Gibson’s accompanying tweet read. “Only two more weeks until your 7 birthday. Tears forever...this can’t be life.”
Mikayla, meanwhile, has been given teddy bears to hold as she recovers in the hospital, her mother said.
“I feel blessed she’s OK,” Capers said yesterday afternoon.
Police were looking for a heavy-set black man as a possible suspect in the stabbings.
"We are going to get this character very quickly,'' Bratton said at a news conference yesterday. “This is a particularly heinous crime where two children were in an elevator with nowhere to escape.”
“They have every right to be concerned and angered,” he said of residents in the area.
Copeland was found about 13 blocks from her East New York home, police said. Herbert, who’s acting as her family’s spokesman, said the Long Island University Brooklyn student was beloved by family and friends.
"They're extremely distraught," he said. "This was a good kid. This wasn't one of those kids who was out there doing anything stupid."
(With Maria Alvarez and David Uberti)