A heroic city employee protected 50 people, most of them tykes, in a Prospect Heights playground after two shots were fired in their direction on Jan. 9.
John Turner, the Parks Department employee who maintains the Underhill Playground on Prospect Place and Underhill Avenue, was inside the park office at around 10 am when he heard two shots ring out.
A Vietnam War vet, Turner realized the shots had been fired in the direction of the playground, and when he ran to the door of the office, he was confronted with a crowd of panicked park-goers.
“It was a very nice day, so the park was frequented by a lot of people,” said Turner, 59, and a Bedford-Stuyvesant resident who’s worked in city parks for 16 years.
“The crowd was crying and screaming and yelling,” said Turner. “One lady ran to the handball court, ducked down, and her baby fell out of her arms. I just yelled at everyone, ‘Follow me!’ I grabbed her baby, took her to the park house and put them inside, told them to lock the door, and said I’d be back. I told them they would know it was me because I’d knock three times. And then I ran back out to make sure I didn’t miss anyone.”
Soon, the cops arrived, interviewed Turner and the playground-goers, and then asked Turner to secure the playground so they could look for evidence, including bullets. Turner said the cops found shells across the street from the park.
“I wanted the people that frequent the park to know that it will always be safe while I am there,” said Turner. “Everyone has [since] come back.”
Cops said they have arrested one individual for the crime.
Maria McGrath, who lives near the park, called Turner’s actions “quick and heroic.”