He was playing handball in Brooklyn’s Lincoln Terrace Park on a late summer Sunday afternoon when, nearby, two warring groups pulled out guns and began firing at each other.
One of the bullets went astray and hit the handball player in the head, killing him. He was the fourth New Yorker shot dead on Aug. 9 — and the latest victim of the gun violence that has plagued New York City this summer.
Between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, police reported five people shot in three separate shootings. So far in 2020, more than 1,000 people have been shot in New York City — twice the number recorded last year. Homicides are also up 50%, according to statistics.
Commissioner Dermot Shea said in an interview with NY1 Monday morning that shootings are “trending down,” but the 41 shootings that occurred in New York last week were still “unacceptable.”
Police were making progress in combating gun violence, Shea said. Ten arrests were made Sunday on gun-related charges. One of the arrests came after a double-shooting at a Queens house party that the commissioner said was gang related.
“There must be consequences for carrying guns with swift punishment,” the commissioner said. “We need consequences for carrying guns, and if we get to that point, we will be in a much better place.”
In the past, Shea has blamed the spike in gun violence on criminal justice reform, release of Rikers Island prisoners and failure of the courts to keep up with gun crime indictments. Mayor Bill de Blasio has pointed to a “perfect storm” of gun smuggling from other states, a failure of social services to help New Yorkers in need and economic and social upheaval related to the COVID-19 pandemic — including the closure of schools and entertainment venues.
Regarding Sunday’s shooting in Lincoln Terrace Park, the murder happened at 5:47 p.m. on Aug. 9 as the victim, identified only as Chris, played on the eastern handball court in the Crown Heights greenspace. Scores of children were also in the park at the time.
At that moment, police said, two feuding groups of individuals fired up to nine shots at each other, hitting the hapless victim in the head – leaving him dead at the scene.
The shooting occurred within view of the children’s playground and fountains where scores of children were playing and staying cool. Luckily, none of them were injured.
Family members from East Flatbush were notified by friends of the victim, but said they refused to believe that it was their brother until they will see him personally.
“We just don’t believe it could be him,” said a woman who identified herself as his sister. “He had nothing to do with anything here, he was just playing handball.”
A friend of the victim, who identified himself only as Peter, said Chris was a Guyanese immigrant who came to the park often to play dominoes and racketball.
“He didn’t get involved in any of the problems around here – he was just an innocent bystander,” Peter said. “You leave your house on a Sunday to go to the park to chill, with children all around and get shot. My children will be running around here and playing tennis and everything and you are not safe here.”
Dawn Gibbs, a resident of East Flatbush expressed outrage at the brazen shooting.
“That’s the sad part, any little child could’ve been shot,” Gibbs said as she watched police look under a bloody sheet where the victim lay in plain sight. “These young teenagers with guns, that is the problem. This man was just playing his handball and then nine bullets – there were kids in the playground and on the tennis courts playing. These young teens don’t care – they crack down on these guns, yet we have so many guns on the street. During COVID, the cops were just cracking down on quarantine and now look what’s going on.”
People playing soccer on an adjoining field paused their game as police taped off the handball courts.
“Something like this is rare over here,” said one of the players, “we don’t get it, because the only ones who get it are the shooters. They don’t care who is around – the children – they don’t care.”
Another man, who identified himself only as Anthony, said he came to play basketball with his friends when he heard about the shooting. He said the shooting should be a “wake-up call.”
“This guy wasn’t even involved and now he’s dead,” Anthony said. “Whoever did the shooting, he’s somewhere now relaxing. He’s losing no sleep over this, he don’t feel bad. We need to come together and unify – we need to see that the man who was killed was a good brother. We need to identify who kill this brother and send him to jail before he kills someone else and they are still out here trying to get the person they intended to get and its probably over nothing – maybe they are a Blood or a Crip – they wear a red flag or a blue flag and they don’t even know the brother.”
This was the second homicide victim in Lincoln Terrace Park this summer, with the other also occurring in broad-daylight within earshot of play areas.
On July 7, when a 27-year-old man was found on the park steps with gunshot wounds to the head and chest. He was also dead on the scene, his family having to see his body covered in a sheet stained with blood.
On Aug. 8, hundreds took part in a massive anti-violence rally through the streets of Brooklyn, organized by community activist Tony Herbert, to plead with residents to stop the shooting. Saturday night, there were no people shot in Brooklyn.
Here’s a rundown of the other shootings that occurred in New York City overnight:
Aug. 9, 10:30 p.m. – An 18-year-old man was shot in the shoulder while playing basketball in a park at Willis Avenue and East 142nd Street in the Bronx. Cops from the 40th Precinct found him wounded on the court. Paramedics rushed him to Lincoln Hospital in stable condition.
Aug. 9, 10:46 p.m. – Three people were shot at a gathering in front of 325 Classon Ave. at the Lafayette Gardens Houses, a NYCHA development in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
Officers from the 79th Precinct say a 27-year-old man was shot in the leg; a 22-year-old man took a bullet to the back; and a 22-year-old man was shot in the shoulder. The victims were taken to Methodist Hospital and Kings County Hospital; all are expected to survive.
Police say a dispute erupted at the gathering and a man began firing into the crowd. It was not clear the motive for the shooting.
Police seek assistance in shooting
Members of the 26th Precinct Detective Squad released video photos of a suspect wanted for the Aug. 9 shooting into a crowd in Harlem.
Two young men were hit by the gunfire at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and West 125th Street. Both victims survived the shooting.
The individual being sought for questioning is described as a man between 20 and 30 years in age. Photos of the individual were taken from the vicinity of the incident location, during the incident.
Anyone with information in regard to this or any of the other shootings, is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS (for Spanish, dial 888-57-PISTA). You can also submit tips online at nypdcrimestoppers.com, or on Twitter @NYPDTips. All calls and messages are kept confidential.