Two teenage Bloods gang members — one acting as a “spotter” and the other firing the gun in an attack meant to strike rival gang members — fatally shot an innocent father as he walked to pick up his 11-year-old daughter on Christmas night, police said Wednesday.
Antoine Foster, 17, of Hempstead, identified by police as the shooter, is still at large, and police described him as “dangerous,” and possibly armed with the 9-mm handgun used to kill Rafael Cepeda, 35, of Hempstead.
Shameq Sullins, 16, of Terrace Avenue in Hempstead, who police called the “spotter,” was arrested Tuesday night by Nassau homicide detectives with the assistance of the Hempstead police department.
Sullins pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder at his arraignment Wednesday at First District Court in Hempstead. Judge William Hohauser ordered Sullins held in jail without bail.
Acting Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said police would continue their crackdown on gang members, which in the last three months had resulted in about 150 arrests.
“I got a 35-year-old father, who left his house on Christmas Day after wrapping his daughter’s gifts. He leaves behind an 11-year-old daughter because two individuals that are both Blood members were shooting at a rival gang, here in Nassau County,” Ryder said. “Not only is it unacceptable, but it will not be tolerated.”
Cepeda, who lived on Terrace Avenue in Hempstead with his daughter, was walking north on his street toward the Hempstead LIRR station to pick up the girl, who had been visiting relatives, when shots rang out about 6:20 p.m., said Det. Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick, commanding officer of the department’s Homicide Squad.
Police said Foster fired three shots in the direction of a vehicle he and Sullins thought belonged to a rival gang, but hit Cepeda, who was walking in front of it as he crossed the street. Those shots were captured on the gunfire detection technology ShotSpotter, prompting a police response, Fitzpatrick said. He declined to name the rival gang.
Cepeda was pronounced dead at a hospital at 7:24 p.m., police said. Although Cepeda lived on the same street as Sullins, police said, it’s unclear whether they knew each other. But Cepeda’s girlfriend, Imani Mazyck, said both she and her boyfriend knew Sullins from the neighborhood and described the pair as “friendly.”
“I know it wasn’t intended for him,” Mazyck, 22, said of the shooting. “He wouldn’t even have wanted these boys in trouble. He was such a good guy. He was a very strong, loving guy. Very generous.”
Family members of Sullins and Foster, who police said attended BOCES, could not be reached for comment.
Mazyck said Cepeda, who lived across the street from Sullins, was a mentor to younger boys — including Sullins, who she said had hung out in Cepeda’s apartment in the past. Mazyck, who lived with Cepeda but has since moved to Queens, said she didn’t know Foster.
“I don’t hold any hate” toward the two suspects, Mazyck said.
Fitzpatrick said detectives identified the suspects with a combination of “extensive video” and tips from the public.
“People knew who they were,” Fitzpatrick said of the suspects. “It’s a very populated area . . . A lot of people came forward.”
At his arraignment, Sullins was represented by a Legal Aid attorney, who said he lived with his mother and two siblings.
Police said anyone who has any information on Foster should contact police or call Nassau County Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-244-TIPS.