New York City turned into the Wild West as a series of shootings claiming at least 9 lives and wounding 41 others — including a Bronx teenager — erupted amid Fourth of July celebrations.
The shocking wave of violence came as the city was reeling from ongoing anti-police brutality protests, weeks of lockdown orders prompted by the coronavirus outbreak and soaring summer temperatures. Adding to the chaotic atmosphere, illegal fireworks exploded throughout the five boroughs all night long.
In the first fatal shooting of the night, Jose Cepeda, a young father, was blasted in the chest a little after midnight Sunday in East New York, Brooklyn.
Cepeda, 20, and a friend had a “little disagreement” in front of the victim’s home on Atkins Ave. near Pitkin Ave. that turned deadly, neighbor Natasha Ramsay told the Daily News.
“The first one shot got him dead,” Ramsay, 42, said. “It’s so sad.”
Medics rushed Cepeda to Brookdale University Hospital but he couldn’t be saved.
That was just the first in a series of horrifying incidents that cop unions blamed on Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who last week passed an annual budget that shifted about $1 billion in NYPD funding, a move aimed at meeting activists’ demands for police reform.
Last year, nine people were shot, one fatally, and two men were slashed in the hours after Fourth of July fireworks.
“Criminals with guns fear no consequences,” the Police Benevolent Association, the NYPD’s largest union, tweeted Sunday, adding that the mayor, speaker “and all electeds” “owe their constituents an explanation.”
“The health and safety of New Yorkers is our top priority, which is why we are drilling down on problem spots with the NYPD,” a City Hall spokesperson stated.
“We all want a safe city, and we believe it can be done while bringing real transformational change,” Johnson said in a statement. “Let’s get at the root causes of violence and move away from a model that sees policing as the only answer to every problem we face.”
This year’s spike in mayhem continued a worrisome surge in crime since coronavirus prompted authorities to shut down the city in mid-March.
June was especially violent, with 250 people shot in the first 28 days of the month, according to NYPD stats. That’s a massive spike compared to the 97 people shot in the same time period last year, and is the city’s most violent June on record since 1996, NYPD stats show.
So far, murders are up by 23% this year citywide, with 176 slayings as of June 28 compared to 143 during the same period last year.
Even so, the city’s homicide rate remains far lower than the mid 1990s and even the mid-2000s. In 2006, the city saw 255 murders between Jan. 1 and June 28.
In Harlem Sunday, a 23-year-old was fatally shot on W. 116th St. near Morningside Park around 2:40 a.m. Police were notified of the shooting after the victim checked himself into a hospital and died minutes later, sources said.
“We were having a barbecue out here. Everybody was just having fun,” recounted a witness who declined to give her name. “I went inside and I came back down and everyone was running into the building saying, ‘They shooting, they shooting.‘”
“He just always wanted everyone to have fun and enjoy themselves,” she said of the victim, whose identity could not immediately be confirmed. “Everyone here knows him and looks at him like a little brother.”
A 19-year-old man was fatally shot in the chest and a 27-year-old man was blasted in the left shoulder around 4:20 a.m. after a large dispute erupted on E. 39th St. near Avenue D in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, sources said.
“This block has a lot of love but what happened last night wasn’t love,” a resident remarked to The News.
Both victims of that incident were rushed to King’s County Hospital but the teenager couldn’t be saved. The older man was in stable condition, police said.
Just 40 minutes later, a 40-year-old man was fatally shot in the chest on Sutter Ave. near Mother Gaston Blvd. outside the Hughes Houses in Brownsville, Brooklyn, police said.
The victim was rushed to Brookdale University Hospital, where he died, they added.
Just half a mile away from the night’s first fatal shooting, a 22-year-old man and 23-year-old woman were shot on Euclid Ave. near Sutter Ave., police said. The man was shot in the chest and the woman was wounded in the right leg around 2:30 a.m. Both victims were taken to Brookdale University Hospital and were expected to survive, cops said.
In Harlem, a 26-year-old man was clinging to life after six people were wounded in a shootout that erupted at a party on 131St. and Lenox Ave. just before 1 a.m., police said.
Medics rushed four of the victims to Harlem Hospital, while two of the victims walked into the hospital later in the evening with gunshot wounds, according to authorities.
There were no arrests in any of the incidents and investigations were ongoing, police said.
On Sunday afternoon and evening, a frightening wave of violence erupted, leaving five men dead — a 21-year-old man in Brownsville, Brooklyn and a 29-year-old man in Mt. Eden, the Bronx, and two men who died after gunfire on E. 171st. St. by College Ave., also in the Bronx. Two other gun violence victims were wounded, including a 15-year-old boy, and another man shot in the College Ave. gunfire.
The teen, shot in the chest on Madison Ave. at E. 110th St. in East Harlem just before 6:45 p.m., was rushed to to Mt. Sinai-St. Luke’s Hospital and was in stable condition.
NYPD Assistant Chief Kathleen O’Reilly, the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Manhattan North, called the violence “disgraceful.”
“Where are the elected officials and violence interupter(s)!!” she tweeted Sunday. “The community is suffering!!”
The mayhem came as the city has been on edge following weeks of Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the May 25 death of black Minneapolis man George Floyd under the knee of a white police officer.
Sunday’s shooters took advantage of an ongoing atmosphere of crisis, said Councilman Donovan Richards, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee.
“The people exploiting this moment are sensing the division on the ground and they’re totally taking advantage of the streets, without a doubt,” the Queens Dem told The News.
“They sense division and therefore they understand they can take out their retribution on each other in ways they weren’t doing years ago because there was much more unity between the department and what was going on on the ground.”
The carnage drew the attention of President Trump, who’s been on a rampage of divisive statements as his re-election odds are threatened by his ham-fisted handling of coronavirus and nationwide protests.
“Chicago and New York City crime numbers are way up,” he tweeted Sunday evening. “Shootings up significantly in NYC where people are demanding that @NYGovCuomo & @NYCMayor act now. Federal Government ready, willing and able to help, if asked!”
The statement evoked last month’s calls from Trump for the National Guard to be deployed at the height of chaotic protests in the Big Apple, though local leaders staved him off.
With John Annese