Despite weekend shootings, New York killings on decline

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 06, 2011 4:28 PM
Despite weekend shootings, New York killings on decline

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gun battles marred the holiday weekend in New York City but statistics show killings in the city remain on the decline.

Just hours after the end of Brooklyn's West Indian Day Parade on Monday, gunfire broke out in the Crown Heights section, leaving two dead, including a woman caught in the cross-fire, and two police officers wounded, authorities said on Tuesday.

The shooting capped a weekend of gun violence that triggered a harsh rebuke by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of what he said was federal apathy toward gun control.

"It was a senseless murder and another painful reminder I think of what happens when elected officials in Washington fail to take the problem of illegal guns seriously," the mayor said in a statement released early Tuesday.

Gun rights advocates, however, said there are enough laws already in place to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the problem is proper enforcement in New York City.

"The mayor keeps trying to make this a national issue but it's a local criminal issue," said Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the National Rifle Association.

"These criminals need to be arrested and punished. Existing laws don't mean a thing if they are not being enforced."

As of August 28, there were 323 murders in New York City in 2011, a decline of 8.8 percent compared to the same period last year. The 2011 murder rate is also 22.5 percent lower than in 2001 and 74.9 percent lower than in 1993.

"Summer weekends tend to be the most violent times in the city," said Vaughn Crandall, deputy director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College.

"While this is terrible stuff, we are not going back to the late 80s and 90s."

In Crown Heights, one of two men exchanging gunfire, Randy Johnson, 29, was struck in the neck and collapsed on the street. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The other, Leroy Webster, 32, fired on two officers who were on parade detail and responded to the gunfire, said police. They returned fire and Webster was critically wounded.

Officer Omar Medina, 36, was shot in the left arm, chest and eye, and Officer Avichaim Dicken was shot in the left arm. Both were listed in stable condition at the hospital.

Caught in the cross-fire of the gun battle was Denise Gay, 56, who was standing at the entrance to her apartment building, police said.

In another shooting early Sunday morning, in which eight people were gunned down at a house party in the Bronx, police made one arrest and sought a second suspect.

Under arrest was Phillip Muir, 21, of the Bronx, charged with eight counts of attempted murder, police said. Still at large was Dasilva Oneil, 17, of Mount Vernon, New York, police said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Greg McCune and Jerry Norton)