Locals in Van Nest are still reeling a week later after a triple shooting in broad daylight punctured the calm of a normally peaceful shopping stretch.
Besides an elderly woman who was struck by a stray bullet during the Wednesday, Feb. 19 brawl, two teenagers were also wounded, one in the leg and another in the arm, though no life-threatening injuries were sustained, said Deputy Inspector Andy Johnson, commanding officer at the 49th Precinct.
Police believe the fight erupted between two crews of teenagers after a spat over marijuana sales, Johnson said.
Police tracked down 18-year-old Christopher Lopez, who had eight previous arrests, on Friday, Feb. 21 and charged him with attempted murder among other crimes.
Cops believe Lopez unloaded five rounds of a .40 caliber handgun at a rival crew during a fight that also involved a baseball bat.
Elderly victim speaks
Sally Adams, 79, had just paid her monthly cable bill at the Checks Cashed shop and stepped outside onto Morris Park Avenue near White Plains Road when the shots rang out.
“I heard, POP POP POP, and then I felt a sting,” Adams, who was struck in the hand by a stray bullet, said from her home on Van Nest Avenue.
Adams remembers her umbrella falling out of her hand and hitting the pavement in front of the 99-cent store.
Then a man rushed over, removing his belt to help her seal off the blood seeping from her right hand. Adams recalls a sharp pain —but not too sharp to crack a joke in the heat of the moment.
“I said you better not be getting fresh,” Adams, who turns 80 on March 2, recalled as she grilled the mystery Good Samaritan. “But he said he was just helping.”
Calm Nabe Rocked
The violence is rattling for a nabe that has fought for decades to rebuild its image.
“A few years ago we had lot of trouble over there with drugs, but we’ve chased that out of the neighborhood,” said Joe Thompson, president of the 49th Precinct Community Council, who has run patrols in the area for decades.
Today, the area where the shooting took place is home to mom-and-pop shops, pizzerias and hardware stores —not exactly a Gangsta’s paradise.
But one witness to Wednesday’s violence said there’s been a spike in out-of control incidents over the last few months involving youths.
“I used to be able to come outside and play dominos when it was warm out,” said Brian Hellner, who owns a video rental store across the street from where the shots rang out. “But lately there’s been some nonsense, and I’ve stopped doing that.”
Inspector Johnson said he’s heard some noise complaints about juvenile delinquents, but stressed that the shooting was a rarity. The precinct ranked THE lowest in the city for major crimes in 2013.
But the work to rid the area of gun crime continues. Thompson pegged access to firearms as part of the problem.
“These are crimes of convenience,” he said. “People have a gun and see somebody they don’t like, and then they want to reach for their gun.”
Another community activist blamed a dearth of youth activity space in the nabe.
“It’s disheartening that there’s nothing for the youth to do around here,” said Bernadette Ferrara of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance. “Our kids deserve better.”