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As Police Make Arrests in One Bronx Shooting, Teen Is Slain in Another

Police officials had just announced the arrests of two men in the deadly shooting of a 61-year-old woman in the Bronx this week when they learned of another episode of gun violence not far away on Friday: three teenagers shot outside a Bronx high school, one of them fatally.

Word of the shooting, which brought a quick end to what had been a positive news conference, was a grim reminder of the surge in shootings that has plagued New York since the pandemic began. Through April 3, there had been more shootings in the city this year than to the same point in either 2020 and 2021, with more than 330 people killed, police data shows.

Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said at the news conference that two brothers had been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of the woman on Monday of Juana Esperanza Soriano De-Perdomo on Monday in the Bronx.

Ms. Soriano De-Perdomo, the police said, was outside a bodega in the Fordham Heights section on her way home from work when she was shot amid a dispute between two groups of men.

Investigators at the site of the shooting in the Bronx where Juana Esperanza Soriano De-Perdomo was killed while walking down the street.Credit…Dakota Santiago for The New York Times

Police officials had taken about five questions from reporters when Commissioner Sewell ended the news conference. “We have an active scene that we have to be briefed on,” she said before rushing from the room.

The abrupt conclusion to the proceedings appeared to be tied to what the police said was the shooting of two 16-year-old girls and a 17-year old boy near University Heights Secondary School in the Melrose neighborhood.

One of the girls was shot in the chest and pronounced dead, the police said at a second news conference later on Friday; the other two teenagers were in stable condition at Lincoln Medical Center. The names of the teenagers were not released. It was unclear whether they were students at the school.

The two shootings, which took place about four miles apart, were striking examples of the gun violence that Mayor Eric Adams has vowed to tackle but that has persisted through his early months in office.

Mr. Adams has said repeatedly that increasing the public’s sense that New York is safe is his top priority. But the continued pace of gunfire, combined with other high-profile crimes this year, is testing his ability to fulfill his pledge while fueling fear among some city residents.

Contributing to the anxiety is the toll on innocent children. A 12-year-old boy, Kade Lewin, was killed on March 31 after someone fired at least eight shots into a parked car in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighborhood. He was eating with two relatives at the time. Days earlier, a bullet hit a 3-year-old girl in the shoulder as she left a Brooklyn day care center with her father.

In the shooting of Ms. Soriano De-Perdomo, the police said that she had been walking down the street and had not interacted with any of the gunmen.

“She was totally innocent,” James Essig, the department’s chief of detectives, said at the earlier news conference on Friday. “An unintended victim of this scourge of gun violence we now see.”

The two men arrested in the killing, Donald Johnson, 20, and Rakell Hampton, 33, were charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon. It was not immediately clear whether they had lawyers.

The police said the men had been arguing with a group of three people that included a clothes vendor who was the intended target when the shooting began. Mr. Johnson fired his gun five times as the other group of men ran off, the police said; at least one bullet struck Ms. Soriano De-Perdomo in the back.

The vendor sprinted into a subway station, and the two people with him drove away in a white car, the police said. Chief Essig said the police had not identified the three people in that group or a third person who was with Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hampton at the time.

Mr. Johnson was on probation after being convicted of possessing stolen property in Rockland County, N.Y., and had also been arrested on a gun charge in New Jersey last winter, the police said.

Mr. Hampton, whom the police identified as a member of the Bloods gang, appeared in court this month on a charge of criminal possession of a weapon for which bail was set, police said. He was released after paying it, and he is scheduled to return to court on April 12.

At a vigil this week, Victor Perdomo Soriano, one of Ms. Soriano De-Perdomo’s sons, described her as a kindhearted, gentle and hard-working mother and grandmother. She had just left work for a hair appointment and gone to a store when she was shot, he said.

“And then she got killed like that?” he said.

Mr. Soriano told The Daily News in an interview that his mother, whose family is originally from the Dominican Republic, had been working at a bathroom appliance company and had put all her earnings toward helping her family.

“My mother never had any problems with anybody,” he told The Daily News. “She wanted to be here for her grandkids and they took her life. They took her life for nothing.”

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