A gunman fatally shot a beloved church caretaker in Bedford Stuyvesant on Monday afternoon, devastating locals who remembered 62-year-old Edward James as a staple of the neighborhood.
“He was an icon of the church,” said 72-year-old Ronald Stewart, a deacon at Glorious Church of God in Christ. “He was a good man, he never looked for any trouble.”
The shooter chased James into the house of worship on Halsey Street just after 5 pm and opened fire, hitting him once in the back — before fleeing the scene undetected, according to authorities.
Paramedics rushed the victim to Kings County Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival. Police have not made any arrests in the case, and the search for the shooter remains ongoing, cops said.
Neighbors hailed James — who started working as the groundskeeper for the church 20 years ago while he was homeless, and whom church-goers called “Swayne” — for working as a local handyman and assisting the elderly, and pleaded for the recent uptick in gun violence to stop.
“He didn’t deserve this,” said Deacon Ronald Porter. “America needs less division and more love right now…Bed-Stuy needs to put the guns down. There is more to life than stealing another life.”
About nine hours after James’ death, authorities found a 29-year-old man in a 2019 Volkswagen at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Elsmere Place in the Bronx with multiple gunshot wounds to the chest.
First responders took the victim to St. Barnabas Hospital where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival.
The deaths come as the city grapples with an uptick in gun violence since June, with 955 shootings citywide since the start of the year. Bedford-Stuyvesant’s 81st Precinct, where the Glorious Church of God in Christ is located, has seen 25 shootings this year — marking a 108-percent increase over last year, according to police data.
On Monday, advocates came together in Canarsie to unveil a mural in honor of the late rapper Pop Smoke and call for an end to the gun violence. Terrence Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, who was killed in May by Minneapolis police, played a video of his brother and urged New York City residents to stop the shootings.
“If you never hear it from anyone else, I love you – put the guns down,” said a tearful Terrence Floyd.
This story first appeared on AMNY.com.