At least nine people were shot—including a 21-year-old college basketball player who was killed—after gunfire erupted early Monday morning at a gathering in Harlem.
The New York Police Department said that officers responded to a report of a shooting at around 12:40 am at East 139 St. and Fifth Avenue. When officers arrived, they found five people with gunshot wounds on a footpath along FDR Highway, just under the Madison Avenue Bridge, and transported to a local hospital. Four other victims were also taken to the hospital.
“It’s Father’s Day weekend. It’s a weekend where people were supposed to be able to enjoy themselves with their families, but we’re here to provide an update to New Yorkers about multiple people shot early this morning,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said during a Monday morning press conference. “The emboldened individuals responsible for this are exactly who our officers are battling every day to make our city safe.”
In all, seven men and two women were injured during the early morning incident. While the male victim has not been identified by police pending family notification, a spokesperson for his college identified him on Monday as 21-year-old, Darius Lee. Police say that the victim was pronounced dead at the hospital after sustaining a gunshot wound to the torso.
Jeff Sutton, the director of media relations for the Houston Baptist University athletics program, confirmed to The Daily Beast that Lee “was one of the victims” of the deadly incident. He added that Lee, who was a rising senior at the Texas school majoring in sports management, was a star on the basketball team.
“The upcoming season would have been his senior year and he was the leading returning scorer in our conference,” Sutton said, noting that he did not have additional information about the Monday shooting.
In a separate statement to The Daily Beast, Houston Baptist University confirmed that Lee was set to graduate in December and had recently been named the school’s Robbie Robertson Male Student-Athlete of the Year. He also “was a second-team All-Southland Conference selection for the 2021-22 season and led the Huskies in scoring and rebounding and was sixth in the nation in steals per game.”
“He was a very fine young man who had a very bright future in front of him both on and off the court. This is unfortunately, yet again, another example of the senseless gun violence that seems to be plaguing our country right now and we all pray it will cease,” HBU Director of Athletics Steve Moniaci said in the statement.
St. Raymond High School for Boys, where Lee graduated in 2019, also confirmed the grim news of his “senseless passing” that has left their community “heartbroken and devastated.”
“Aside from being a tremendous basketball star, he was a phenomenal human being, and a young man living such a positive life, succeeding in school, on the court, and in life,” the Bronx school said in a Monday Instagram post that included a photo of Lee. “These senseless acts of violence need to stop…such a tragedy.”
One eyewitness told WABC-TV that she was sitting in her living room when “sporadic shots” started to ring out. The outlet also reported that the ages of the victims range from 21 to 42. New York Daily News reported that the incident occurred at a Father’s Day cookout organized by a local rapper and that the shooting erupted as he was shooting a video.
Francisco Batista, who was injured during the shooting, told the outlet he recalled bullets “flying past my hair.” The 24-year-old said that he just kept running after he was shot in the finger, which is so badly broken that doctors said there is a possibility they will have to amputate it.
“I heard like five to seven shots,” Batista, who ran to the hospital on his own after the incident, added to the Daily News. “It almost hits me on my side. If I didn’t turn at the last second—the only reason it hit my hand and not my side is because I turned.”
“It was like, ‘Prong, prong, prong! And then it stopped and picked back up, ‘Brum, brum!’ You know, there were so many shots,” the witness told WABC. “First I thought it was fireworks. and then I thought, ‘Nah, it can’t be.’”
While authorities are still investigating the motivation behind the shooting, NYPD Deputy Chief Brian McGee said he believes the incident unfolded at a barbecue or “something at that nature.” He added that a handgun was recovered at the scene, but declined to provide any information about any potential suspects and urged any witnesses to come forward with information.
“We know there were a lot of people out there,” McGee added.