Angellyh Yambo Gun Free Zone Expansion Act announced in front of namesake’s former South Bronx high school

Rep. Ritchie Torres announces new ghost gun legislation at University Prep Charter School June 20, 2023
U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres announces new ghost gun legislation at University Prep Charter School on June 20, 2023.
Photo Emily Swanson

Yanely Henriquez stood in front of University Prep Charter School on St. Ann’s Avenue in the South Bronx wearing a long floral skirt, bright teal top, teal eyeliner and a jeweled pin.

But she was not there to celebrate the end of her daughter Angellyh Yambo’s sophomore year. Rather, she dressed in tribute to Angellyh, who was shot and killed while walking home from school on April 8, 2022.

A friend of Angellyh’s, 15-year-old Angelo Oswaldo Nuñez, agreed that she was known for her flamboyant style. “The makeup, the lashes. She always had some new look.”

Henriquez gathered with family, elected officials and University Prep students to announce new federal legislation called the Angellyh Yambo Gun Free Zone Expansion Act of 2023.

Yambo and two other teens were all caught in the crossfire of a 17-year-old with a “ghost gun,” the type of untraceable, non-serialized firearm that proliferated by almost 1000% between 2016 and 2021. 

In the year-plus since Yambo’s death, her family has worked with elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres to craft stricter legislation that prohibits the purchase, possession, transfer and sale of ghost guns, while expanding Gun Free School Zones from 1,000 feet to 5,000 feet. 

Yanely Henriquez is comforted by Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark June 20, 2023
Yanely Henriquez, mother of the late Angellyh Yambo, is comforted by Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark at the press conference Tuesday. Yambo was fatally shot by a stray bullet in April 2022. Photo Emily Swanson

Expanding the gun law

The Gun-Free School Zones Act prohibited possession or discharge of firearms on and around school grounds was passed in 1990. But Yambo’s family realized it hadn’t been updated since then. 

In 1990, it was unimaginable that a gun could be easily created at home. With the advent of 3D printers, Torres said at the press conference, anyone can go online and buy gun components that are untraceable. 

“We’re living in a dangerous world where ghost guns can be mass-produced in the private homes of teenagers,” Torres said. 

Torres introduced the new bill and explained that the proposed legislation expands upon current law. “In 2022, the president enacted and finalized a rule that would expand the definition of firearms to include ghost gun kits. But retailers began selling the gun components separately, rather than the gun kits, in order to circumvent the rules. Gun retailers are willing to break the law, and the ATF has been unwilling to enforce the law as vigorously as it should be,” he said.

Angellyh’s aunts, Alexandra Maruri and Mary Hernandez, said that their niece was killed 1,589 feet from her school — just outside the protected zone.

Maruri said they realized, “This law should be expanded because of the availability of guns.”

She and Hernandez hope that under their new legislation, would-be shooters will be deterred “not by the actual sign [designating a Gun-Free School Zone] but by the law” — a stricter message that gun violence near schools will come with harsh penalties.

According to a May 2022 memo from Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark’s office, Angellyh’s killer, Jeremiah Ryan, was charged with second-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder, first-degree manslaughter, two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of second-degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon. He will be tried as an adult in Bronx Supreme Court. 

Following her murder, the call for stricter gun measures was welcomed by elected officials who have supported the Yambo-Henriquez family.

“We’re losing a generation of young people to gun violence,” said Clark. “The community needs to know that we’re not sleeping on this. This keeps me up at night.”

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson said she was saddened and outraged by the 12shootings the city saw just over the weekend. 

“How many more families have to get that phone call?” she said, her voice rising. 

Gibson said that Bronxites can expect to see more police presence immediately and that the South Bronx is set to receive a significant portion of the NYPD academy class graduating next month.

Remembering Angellyh

Oswaldo Nuñez, Angellyh’s friend, was eager to remember her. “She would always look out for me. She would always tell me to go to class,” he told the Bronx Times, laughing. 

Despite the shooting, Oswaldo Nuñez said he doesn’t worry much about gun violence. “You can take all the precautions you want, and it still might happen,” he said. “It worries me, yes, but I don’t worry about me. I worry about my friends. I’m always checking their locations, making sure they’re good.” 

Angelo Oswaldo Nunez, a friend of ghost gun victim Angellyh Yambo, attends the press conference on June 20, 2023
Angelo Oswaldo Nunez, a friend of ghost gun victim Angellyh Yambo, attends the press conference on June 20, 2023.Photo Emily Swanson

He said he and Angellyh had that kind of friendship. “The day she passed away, we was talking up in the library before she left,” making plans to hang out with friends later. 

When he got the news about the shooting, Oswaldo Nuñez said he and another friend “were standing right here” in front of the school — at the site of the press conference. 

“I just hope that these ghost guns go away,” he said. “For real for real. It’s like, there’s no point in having them. Kids don’t need them.” 

Manuel Yambo, Angellyh’s father, told the Bronx Times that his two sons, ages 19 and three, keep him going. “Especially the little one.” 

He said Angellyh was initially upset to learn she’d be getting a baby brother and not a sister, but “when he was born, she was crazy with him.”

Yambo said that he has always lived in the Bronx, currently in Riverdale, and believes that gun violence is worse now. The borough has seen several recent shootings with teens as the victims or perpetrators — or both. In April, a group of teenagers began shooting each other at the Burke Avenue subway station, killing Kymani Woods, 17. His shooter was also 17.

Yambo said that realistically, “Angellyh’s not gonna be the last one,” but he has hope the legislation will make a difference.

“You gotta be strict with it,” he said. “You get caught with a gun, you do the time. And it’s not just five years, ten years, it’s more than that. You have to set an example.”

Henriquez, Angellyh’s mother, echoed that idea: “Getting a gun is like getting pair of sneakers. That needs to be changed.”

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