A man who was shot and killed in Central Islip Tuesday afternoon was the third fatal gunshot victim in the neighborhood in less than two days, and Suffolk police said the first two killings could be connected and might be the work of gang members.
The name of the latest victim, whom police described as a man in his 20s, was not released. He was gunned down about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday on the ground level of a multiunit home on Clayton Street, said Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick, commanding officer of the Suffolk police homicide squad.
The first shooting occurred about 11:35 p.m. Sunday, when Derrick Mayes, 21, of Central Islip, was found lying dead in the street with a gunshot wound to his torso, Suffolk police said. Fitzpatrick said Mayes had been walking on Wilson Boulevard when he was confronted and shot.
Homicide detectives were investigating similarities between that shooting and another fatal shooting that occurred on Acorn Avenue Tuesday morning, police said. Fitzpatrick said investigators suspect the first two shootings could be connected and might have been committed by gang members.
In the second shooting, Keenan Russell, 21, of Central Islip was shot in the abdomen after a party at about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. He died later Tuesday morning at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick said no arrests have been made.
Fitzpatrick said that Suffolk County averages anywhere from 33 to 38 homicides a year. So far, he said there have been eight in 2013, including the three most recent ones. "Obviously we are concerned any time there is a murder in the community," Fitzpatrick said.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement: "We have been talking with police commanders and community leaders throughout the day and my message is clear: We will commit whatever resources are necessary to bring the perpetrators to justice and protect the community. We will not allow gun violence to overtake any street in Suffolk County."
Russell's friends, who said he was an aspiring hip-hop artist, held a vigil Tuesday night at a restaurant in Lake Grove.
"He was always freestyling at people's houses and I was there to film it," said Michael Chow, who had worked with Russell on a recent music video. "His music was fun. It was happy. It's not your typical rap music. He was a fun, free-spirited guy. He was creative and unique. He was definitely one of the most talented rappers on Long Island."
The shootings unsettled local residents, who said their neighborhood is normally quiet and peaceful.
Charmaine Givans, who lives near where Russell was shot, said her son was celebrating his 23rd birthday with a backyard barbecue with about 25 friends Monday night.
At about midnight, Givans said, she told her son to turn off the music and send his friends home because it was getting late.
Russell was among the partygoers, she said, adding that her son attended middle and high school with him. The two played basketball on a youth league team but had not remained close after her son graduated high school five years ago, Givans said.
Partygoers told her they were standing in the driveway, saying good night, when a man in a dark hood ran by shooting, she said.
A woman who was standing next to Russell told Givans a "bullet passed her face."
Givans said she stayed in the house until police arrived just minutes after her 911 call. She never saw Russell after the shooting, Givans said, just his red baseball cap lying in the street.
"We're all shaken up," she said. "I'm nervous. I feel like they wanted someone at the party."
Olivia Williams, 19, sobbed near the spot where Mayes was found shot.
"He was my boyfriend," she said. Williams said Mayes had been walking back to his aunt's house when he was killed and that he was not a gang member.
Neighbor Dennis Rivera said he was shocked that such a brazen crime had occurred in his neighborhood, which he said is usually quiet. His 5-year-old daughter, he said, frequently plays in the front yard.
"It's a little scary," said Rivera, 40, who works in construction and has lived in his house since 2008. "They never have nothing here."