A 43-year-old Queens woman was struck and killed by a stray bullet early Wednesday morning and investigators are searching for two persons of interest who apparently attempted to steal a bicycle nearby at the time, authorities said.
Bertha Arriaga, a mother of three, was struck in the neck about 12:45 a.m. by a bullet that went through a bedroom window of her 34th Avenue apartment, said Assistant NYPD Chief Galen Frierson at a news conference.
Arriaga’s 14-year-old son discovered her on the floor of the bedroom and called 911, Frierson said.
Investigators have video showing two men appearing to steal a bike in front of Arriaga's apartment about the time of the shooting, said NYPD Assistant Chief Julie Morill. The video shows the two men at the same time a shots-fired call from the area came into 911, Morrill said.
The video shows a motorcycle carrying both men on the sidewalk. They then appear to fiddle with a bicycle affixed to a pole. The video then shows the two abruptly motor away on the motorcycle.
"There appears to be a theft occurring at the time of a bicycle that was locked up," said Morrill, adding that the bike wasn’t taken.
Frierson said the area where the shooting occurred in Jackson Heights had been generally a low-crime neighborhood, although lately hit by bicycle thefts.
"It is a nice residential area," Frierson said. "A beautiful block."
He said Arriaga "was cut down by a bullet not intended for her in her home, with her three children and her husband."
Her death is at least the third this year involving an unintended victim fatally shot as a spike in shootings has plagued the city. In July, 1-year-old Davell Gardner was shot as he sat in a stroller at a neighborhood block party in Brooklyn. About a month later, an aspiring Bronx high school basketball star, 17-year-old Brandon Hendricks, was shot and killed.
Shootings so far in 2020 have increased by 92% over 2019 for the same time period with the number of those wounded up by nearly 100%, according to the latest NYPD statistics. The increases continue to trouble city and police officials who have tried a number of tactics, from increasing patrols in crime hot spots to using clergy and others to try and quell the violence.
Frierson and Morrill asked for community assistance in solving the crime and said the neighborhood where Arriaga was shot has supported the NYPD and helped police during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"We need the public’s help, as we stand here today to solve this heinous crime," Morrill said. "A woman was shot, murdered in her own home."