(NY TIMES) – A 20-year-old woman was fatally shot Wednesday night by a hooded gunman while she pushed her 3-month-old child in a stroller on the Upper East Side, officials said, another bleak episode in a wave of gun violence that has gripped New York City over the past two years.
The victim was on East 95th Street near Lexington Avenue around 8:30 p.m. when an assailant shot her once in the head at a very close range, the police said. She was taken to Metropolitan Hospital Center and pronounced dead, officials said.
The attacker, who was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants, ran off after firing, officials said, heading east down a tree-lined block with brownstone buildings on one side and a park and public school on the other. A law enforcement source, who was granted anonymity to speak about an ongoing investigation, said that one unknown caliber shell was recovered at the scene.
The gunman’s identity has not been released. The child was unhurt, the police said. Police officials did not identify the victim and said they had made no arrests.
On Thursday morning, steps from where the woman was killed, Julio Cruz discovered the police towing his car. He said officers had told him a bullet from the shooting might still be inside the vehicle, and that they needed to conduct a search.
“The time they need is the time they need,” said Mr. Cruz, 62. “I hope they find something about this case.”
Mayor Eric Adams, speaking at a news conference at the site of the shooting Wednesday night, said the killing was another example of the scourge of gun violence in New York, and another reason he had made combating it a top priority.
The mayor noted that he and the police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, had spent the early part of the day with New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, announcing lawsuits that Ms. James and the city had filed to crack down on the untraceable kit weapons called ghost guns.
“More guns in our city means more lives lost,” he added. “It means more babies crying as those who love them lie dead.”
In an interview after the news conference, Julie Menin, a city councilwoman who represents part of the Upper East Side, described the killing as “absolutely unspeakable.”
She added: “This unrelenting gun violence has to stop.”
After surging earlier in the pandemic, shooting rates in New York have begun to abate, but they remain above their prepandemic levels. As of Sunday, there had been 624 shootings in the city this year, compared with 710 in the same period in 2021. That is a 12 percent drop, but still about 28 percent more than at the same point in 2019.
Even amid the recent declines, the persistence of gun violence — particularly in poor and working-class neighborhoods with large Black and Latino populations — has increased pressure on Mr. Adams.
That young people have been victims in some of this year’s high-profile shootings has only added urgency to addressing the problem.
Just after midnight on June 19, for instance, a 21-year-old man and college basketball standout was fatally shot at a popular summer picnicking area in Harlem in an episode that left eight other people wounded.
In May, an 11-year-old girl was killed when she was caught in the crossfire of teenagers in the Bronx. In March, a 12-year-old boy was struck and killed by a bullet as he sat in a car in Brooklyn, eating a meal with his family. And, in April, a 61-year-old woman was shot and killed in crossfire in the Bronx.
On Wednesday night, Stephanie McGraw, the founder of We All Really Matter, a Harlem-based organization known as W.A.R.M. that aids domestic violence victims, was just inside the police tape cordoning off the site of the shooting.
Ms. McGraw said she was there because she “got a call,” but declined to elaborate. Although the authorities said only that the circumstances surrounding the shooting were under investigation, she speculated that domestic abuse might be involved. Two law enforcement officials confirmed that the police were looking at the killing as a potential incident of domestic violence.
“You don’t just randomly shoot a woman with a small child point blank in the head,” Ms. McGraw said. “That’s rage.”
Just up Lexington Avenue from where the shooting occurred, Sophia Monegro paused while lugging a cart carrying a teal laundry bag into her apartment building across from the Samuel Seabury Playground.
The neighborhood is known for its townhouses, prewar buildings, glassy high-rises and its proximity to Central Park and Carl Schurz Park, the location of the mayoral residence, Gracie Mansion.
Cafes and delis line 95th Street, a block south of a more commercial area near the F.D.R. Drive, which runs along the East Side of Manhattan.
Ms. Monegro, 28, said she had moved to the neighborhood a year ago and was not shocked by the shooting. “It’s the Upper East Side, but it’s New York City, so there’s always crime,” she said.
Other residents, some out for a last walk with their dogs, were visibly stunned to learn of the shooting.
“This is a great neighborhood,” said Rahul Rathod, who moved into the area nine months ago. He said it was quiet after dark because of the large of number of older residents and that children often played basketball on the Seabury courts well into the evening.
A bit farther up the avenue, Brice Peyre, 58, was smoking a cigarette while watching the commotion unfold. He said he had lived in the same building on 96th Street since 1991.
“This really is literally striking home,” Mr. Peyre said. “It’s right within the zone.”
Police statistics show that the neighborhood, a largely affluent area in the 19th Precinct, is generally safe. There was one killing in the precinct last year and the one on Wednesday was the first there this year.
But Mr. Peyre said the city had a creeping feeling of danger these days.
“This is not helping at all,” Mr. Peyre said.