Two men were arrested last week following a shooting that wounded several in Bushwick on Memorial Day.
Jonathan Espinal, 25, and Juan Garcia, 25, were taken into police custody in connection to the weekend shooting spree late last month.
Gunshots rang out on Knickerbocker Avenue and Hancock Street, near Irving Square Park around 7:47 p.m. following what police called a dispute between a group of men. Five male victims, unidentified by police, suffered various gunshot wounds.
Espinal, of Corona, Queens, was arrested the day after the shooting. Police later apprehended Garcia on June 4. Both have been charged with attempted murder, assault, criminal possession of a weapon, and reckless endangerment, according to police.
“These guys are facing attempted murder charges and hopefully the courts hold them accountable,” an NYPD spokesperson told Bushwick Daily.
The victims, aged 19, 24, 25, 29, and 35 were rushed to area hospitals in stable condition. Two men were shot in the leg. The other three victims sustained bullet wounds to their torso, back, and arm.
“Anytime that there’s a shooting situation, especially when there’s multiple people involved, it’s a tragic situation,” the police spokesperson said. “You don’t expect there to be an incident where five people are shot in one location.”
A suspected motive for the shooting hasn’t been released, however, officials don’t suspect the shooting was targeted. According to surveillance footage, several men were seen “arguing” at the intersection prior to shots being fired.
“There was an argument that preceded the shooting,” NYPD spokesperson added. “But what the argument was about we don’t have.”
Victims were also tight-lipped under questioning, police said.
“They were telling us they were walking and they heard shooting and they felt pain,” the NYPD spokesperson said. “That’s a typical line that a lot of people give us when they’re victims of a shooting. If they don’t want to give us information, they give us the same line.”
Naquan Ward, 26, a supervisor at Fazio’s of Bushwick, said he was on-shift when gunfire erupted down the block. He ushered outdoor diners inside as police descended on the scene.
“It was just commotion and people running in different directions wondering where sounds were coming from,” Ward told Bushwick Daily. “I started bringing people inside just a little bit so they wouldn’t be in the way of anything.”
He estimated the small restaurant was catering approximately a dozen customers at the time.
“We were really busy when it happened,” he explained, describing patrons as “surprised” and “scared.”
“It seemed like they had actually never heard gunshots before,” Ward said.
Hundreds of feet away, parishioners were huddled inside St. Martin of Tours Roman Catholic Church.
“People saw a lot of commotion as they were leaving the church,” a church representative, who declined to be identified, told Bushwick Daily. “There was mass going on…everyone was in church.”
Bushwick Ascend Charter School sat only footsteps away from where bullets flew last month.
“Around here, it’s just how it goes, unfortunately,” Charles Cruz, a 52-year-old restaurant worker, told Bushwick Daily after dropping his daughter off at the charter school. “It’s a sign of the times. It’s getting worse and worse.”
Police say that the latest shootings mark the sharpest uptick in gun violence across the city in several years. Police responded to 20 shootings across the city over Memorial Day long weekend — six more than last year’s holiday.
Gun violence has surged in New York during the coronavirus pandemic, according to city data. In 2020, the city saw a 97 percent overall increase in shootings — and the alarming trend shows no signs of slowing as summer approaches. A total of 574 shootings were recorded by police in the first five months of 2021 — the highest number since 2002.
“The gun violence we endure every day in New York City cannot continue,” Mayoral contender and Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams wrote on Twitter in recognition of National Gun Day, four days after the shooting.
Adams, a former NYPD officer, has proposed hiring a special prosecutor for guns, more funding for the city’s gun suppression unit and firearms spot checks at Port Authority to crack down on guns coming into the city.
Espinal is being held by the New York City Department of Correction. His defense attorney, Christian Steve Alfaya, declined to comment on the case when contacted on Monday.
“As you know, it’s a very fluid situation at this time,” Alfaya said.
Top image: Children passing by the shooting site before classes began at the nearby Bushwick Ascend Charter School (Dorian Geiger for Bushwick Daily)
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