Two of three young people wounded when gunfire erupted on a Queens street a day ago appear to be innocent bystanders caught in the fray, including a 14-year-old girl who was shot in the neck, a senior NYPD official with direct knowledge of the investigation said Thursday.
A motive for the violence that broke out just after 4 p.m. on 188th Street between 48th and 50th avenues in Fresh Meadows is still unclear, the official said, but at this point, it looks like the girl and one of the 18-year-olds who were shot were not intended targets.
She was shot once in the neck and was said to be the most severely injured of the three. She remained hospitalized in critical condition with a bullet lodged in her spine Thursday afternoon, but is expected to survive, officials said. The two 18-year-olds were the others shot. One was hit in the stomach, the other in the hip. Both of them are expected to be OK.
And both of older teens reported running from the scene after the shooting, the senior official says. In the case of one of them, cops responding to a 911 call from a home on 69th Avenue found him wounded inside and brought him to get help. During a follow-up interview at the hospital, he allegedly told cops he was walking in the area with a group of friends — possibly to a nearby pizzeria — when they met up with another group he didn't know and started walking.
Get Tri-state area news and weather forecasts to your inbox. Sign up for NBC New York newsletters.
At some point, as they were walking north on 188th Street, they saw two double-parked vehicles in the street with multiple people standing outside, the senior NYPD official said. Those people started yelling in the group's direction and multiple shots were fired.
That's when, according to what the NYPD official said the victim told investigators, he felt pain in his leg. And he ran to his home around the corner in fear.
The third victim also lived nearby and ran to his house after being shot as well, the senior NYPD official said. The bullet is lodged in his stomach, the senior NYPD official said in Thursday's update. It will have to be surgically removed but he should live.
The victim couldn't provide much additional information other than that he saw two cars stop at the location. He too heard yelling, then shots, then felt pain in his side, the senior NYPD official said he told investigators. He couldn't identify anyone at the scene.
Authorities have been canvassing the area for video and other potential evidence. They have cellphone video that captures part of the incident, including the double-parked cars, the people standing in front of them, the yelling and the sound of gunshots.
The shooting group fled the scene in a gray vehicle, the video showed, according to the senior NYPD official. Nine .9mm shell casings and two fired bullets were recovered from the scene, the official added.
Police say they’re trying to get ahold of any bit of video that may have captured the suspects’ car – including images from a nearby speeding camera. They released an image of the gray sedan, and offered a $3,500 reward for anyone who provides information leading to an arrest.
Late Thursday evening, police also released an image of the suspects wanted in connection to the shooting, with one holding up a handgun and pointing it.
Officials at the school nearby, Francis Lewis High School, beefed up security in the wake of the shooting, with students going through metal detectors before entering. Those metal detectors found prohibited items, including a stun gun, knives, pepper spray and brass knuckles. A school employee said students will not have to go through metal detectors tomorrow and they will not see that increased police presence either.
Investigators are looking into whether the shooting may have been gang-motivated. They say their probe is ongoing and ask anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.