A convicted drug dealer has admitted to ending the life of a college student from Freeport who died nearly five years after he became a quadriplegic in a 2011 shooting on a Hempstead street.
Hamilton Croft, 40, of Hewlett, pleaded guilty Tuesday to manslaughter in the 2016 death of Daniel Flowers, court records show.
Flowers was 20 when he and a group of about 10 friends were out in Hempstead on July 3, 2011, near a Main Street strip club when someone started shooting and gunfire hit him, authorities said previously.
Croft’s arrest in February 2017 came two months after police asked for the public’s help in nabbing the gunman.
Police alleged in a felony complaint charging Croft with second-degree murder that he intentionally fired a handgun several times, hitting Flowers once.
“It’s been tumultuous. But I did my best to fight for justice for Daniel,” Gerry Flowers, 54, the aunt who raised the victim as her own son, said in an interview Wednesday.
Croft will face sentencing on May 6, when acting State Supreme Court Justice Terence Murphy also will announce the man’s punishment in connection with his March guilty plea in a separate heroin and conspiracy case.
The judge has said he would sentence Croft to 15 years in prison for the manslaughter conviction, and that the defendant would serve his punishment for his drug crimes during the same time, according to Croft’s attorney, Mitchell Barnett.
The defense attorney declined to comment further Wednesday. The Nassau district attorney’s office also declined to comment.
Court records show Croft told police at the time of his murder arrest that he opened fire near the strip club after someone he’d previously met, not Flowers, threatened him with a gun before the two exchanged gunfire. Croft said he didn’t know until later that anyone had been shot.
Law enforcement officials have said Croft is a Bloods gang member who sold heroin in Hicksville, Levittown and Long Beach as part of a drug ring that operated out of barber shops and auto garages.
Every week the narcotics network pumped about 23,000 doses of heroin onto the streets of Nassau, Brooklyn and Queens, according to authorities, who in May 2017 announced the indictment of Croft and 13 others after busting up the ring.
Gerry Flowers said it felt “bittersweet” Tuesday when she heard Croft plead guilty in her nephew’s slaying. The plea happened as the defendant’s murder trial was scheduled to start in Nassau County Court.
Daniel Flowers was a student at Nassau Community College who had planned on continuing his education at Rutgers University, where he hoped to play football as he had at Freeport High School, his aunt said.
After the shooting, Daniel Flowers spent months hospitalized in an intensive care unit and then years as a patient at A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale, according to his aunt.
The Freeport resident and grandmother of three said it was difficult for an athletically-blessed young man who grew up also playing baseball and basketball to cope with paralysis.
“We would pray and we would talk and we would cry,” Gerry Flowers said. “He was very angry.”
About a year before Daniel Flowers died in January 2016, he was able to move one of his hands and felt sensation in his feet, according to his aunt.
She said a bullet went in and out of his neck in the shooting, but fragments traveled down his spine and caused his paralysis.
Family buried Daniel Flowers on what would have been his 25th birthday, Gerry Flowers said.
The medical examiner’s office listed his cause of death as pneumonia and sepsis — complications of quadriplegia.
“After yesterday, I know he is resting in paradise,” the victim’s aunt said of her nephew and Croft’s plea.
Of Croft she added: “He has to live with what he did every day … I don’t wish him any ill will. It’s not going to bring my baby back.”