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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NY: Eight dead from gun violence during bloody Memorial Day weekend

Bullets flew over the Memorial Day weekend, leaving eight people dead of gun violence during the unofficial beginning of the summer.

With each killing, a family was torn apart. Perhaps no other case illustrated the pain like the murder of Claudia Millan, 29, of the Bronx. She was shot in the face Sunday night by a heartless killer, as she held the hand of her 2-year-old son.

Millan fell to the ground on an East Tremont street near her home. The boy, Jah-mere Lassiter, got down on his knees and clung to his dying mom, a witness said.

Millan has three other children, one of whom is visually impaired. She was an orphan who was reunited a few years ago with her biological brother, Antonio Millan, 20.

"I live in the Bronx. It's every day for us," the brother said.

Because he's accustomed to random violence, he said, he thought nothing of the gunshot that rang out shortly after 11 p.m. But 30 minutes later, police knocked on the door of the apartment he shared with his sister.

"I kicked the door. I was just angry. Who would kill a woman with a child?" he railed.

The eight people killed in seven shootings over the weekend helped bring the city's murder tally to 185 through late yesterday. Through May 29 of last year, police reported 186 murders.

"I'm worried about my family," said Robert Pressley, 48, a city worker from Brownsville, Brooklyn. "This is only the beginning of ugly things to come. I think it's going to be a hot, out-of-control summer."

The victims in the recent spate of violence included a young, pregnant mother, Crystal Sweet, 22, who was killed in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, early Sunday in a hail of bullets intended for others. Her boyfriend, Timothy Walter, 29, was killed in the shooting. Walter's brother, Cornelius, 30, was critically wounded. Police sources said the Walter brothers were carrying crack when they were shot. Detectives think it was a drug hit, the police sources said.

In Crown Heights, Brooklyn, shortly after 5 a.m. yesterday, Kareem Russell, a 37-year-old father who worked as a bricklayer, was shot in the head and arm near the intersection of Pacific St. and Schenectady Ave.

While the murder rate nearly matches that of last year, homicides have been on the increase in recent months. As of Feb. 23, murders were down 25% compared with last year.

The Bronx is a big reason for the upward trend. As of May 22, murders in the borough were up 27.5% - a spike to 51 from 40.

At the exact same time Millan was killed - and a few miles away - Johnny Moore, 16, was gunned down in Mott Haven, the Bronx.

Detectives believe Johnny, a well-known talent on the basketball courts of Mott Haven, was killed by a young man he beat in a game of one-on-one hoops for money. The sore loser refused to pay up - and he shot Johnny over the cash, police sources said.

"That was my brother, and I love him to death," said his sister Tempest Moore, 22.

In a tearful tribute, she stood on a basketball court at the Patterson Houses wearing her brother's jersey. It was early yesterday - hours after the murder.

"He wasn't a bad kid," she said, lobbing his basketball toward a netless goal. "I'm in a daze right now."

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