Last night’s , as well as two police officers injured, seems to be all that anyone is talking about in the neighborhood today. Swarms of news vans are still surrounding the closed off blocks of Franklin Avenue between St. Marks Place and Sterling Place, with officers keeping the public back.
Outside of his building on Park Place, neighbor William Velez had come out to see if the police officers had taken down the yellow tape that closed off the rest of the block.
“I was right here when it happened,” Velez said. “I heard the first gunshot, and then there were about 20 more. The cops came in from either side [of the block].”
Velez said he knew Denise Gay, a 56-year-old retiree who was sitting on her Park Place stoop with her 13-year-old daughter when a stray bullet from 32-year-old shooter Leroy Webster’s gun struck her in the head. Gay was pronounced dead at the scene.
“[The daughter] was right in front of the stoop when her mother died,” said Velez, shaking his head. “Who’s going to provide for her now?”
Velez called the incident a “wake-up call,” after living on what he thought was a “quiet block” for 47 years. He blames the crowds that flock to the West Indian Day Parade.
“If you’re letting them drink Friday to Monday, this is what happens,” said Velez.
A neighbor in the same building, who declined to give her name, said she had known Johnson since she was 7-years-old, and Gay since she was 8. According to her, Webster had moved to the block eight days prior.
“I saw everything,” she said. “The guy just kept going ‘pop pop pop pop’ [with his gun] down the street. I was sitting on my fire escape watching everything; it was like a movie.”
“All I can see is his body, just lying there. I’m thinking, ‘This is not real,’” said the neighbor, still shaken from last night’s incident.
“That was my heart,” she said, referring to Johnson. “[Webster] shot my heart.”