A 53-year-old man playing handball at a Crown Heights park was shot in the head on Sunday during a shootout between two warring groups, authorities said.
The victim, identified only as Chris, was playing on the eastern handball court in Lincoln Terrace Park by Buffalo and East New York avenues at 5:47 pm when two groups of gunmen fired up to nine shots at each other. One struck the hapless victim in the head, killing him on the scene.
Friends of the victim notified his family from East Flatbush of his death, but his relatives said they refused to believe that it was Chris who was slain until they will saw him personally.
“We just don’t believe it could be him,” said a woman who identified herself as his sister. “He had nothing to do with anything here, he was just playing handball.”
A friend of the victim, who identified himself only as Peter, said Chris was a Guyanese immigrant who came to the park often to play dominoes and racketball.
“He didn’t get involved in any of the problems around here – he was just an innocent bystander,” Peter said. “You leave your house on a Sunday to go to the park to chill, with children all around, and get shot. My children will be running around here and playing tennis and everything and you are not safe here.”
The killing marked the second homicide in Lincoln Terrace Park this summer, which also occurred in broad daylight near children play areas. On July 7, a 27-year-old man was found on the park steps with gunshot wounds to the head and chest. He was also dead on the scene, police said.
Between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, police reported five victims in three separate shootings. This year has seen close to 1,000 people shot across the city, according to NYPD data — up 80 percent year-to-date compared to last year.
At 10:30 pm on Sunday night, a gunman shot a teen in the Bronx, who was rushed to the hospital in stable condition. About 15 minutes later, a man opened fire into a gathering outside a Clinton Hill public housing development at 325 Classon Ave, shooting three people. All the victims were taken to the hospital and are expected to survive, according to authorities.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said in an interview with NY1 Monday morning that shootings are “trending down,” but called the 41 shootings in New York last week “unacceptable.”
“There must be consequences for carrying guns with swift punishment,” the commissioner said. “We need consequences for carrying guns, and if we get to that point, we will be in a much better place.”
One man at the scene of the Crown Heights shooting, who identified himself only as Anthony, said he came to play basketball with his friends when he heard about the incident. He said the shooting should be a “wake-up call,” and urged the city to bring the perpetrator to justice.
“This guy wasn’t even involved and now he’s dead. Whoever did the shooting, he’s somewhere now relaxing,” he said.”We need to identify who kill this brother and send him to jail before he kills someone else, and they are still out here trying to get the person they intended to get, and it’s probably over nothing.”
This story first appeared on AMNY.com.