NEW YORK >> New York City turned into the Wild West as a series of shootings claiming four lives and injuring 37 others 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 in all five boroughs throughout the night.
In the first fatal shooting of the night, Jose Cepeda, a young father, was blasted in the chest a little after midnight today 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 away from the NYPD, a move aimed at meeting activists’ demands for police reform.
“Criminals with guns fear no consequences,” the Police Benevolent Association tweeted today, 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 said in a statement.
Johnson’s offices did not immediately answer a request for comment.
In Harlem, 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.
A 19-year-old was fatally shot in the chest and a 27-year-old man was shot 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.
Both victims 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 are no arrests in any of the incidents and investigations are ongoing, police said.
The violence came as the city has been on edge following weeks of protests sparked by the May 25 death of Black Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer.
The shooters were taking 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,” he added.