An 11-month-old girl was in critical condition late Wednesday after being hit in the cheek by a stray bullet while sitting in a parked car with her mother in the Bronx, police said.
After first being taken to St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, the girl, whose first birthday is on Friday, was intubated and moved to Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, police said. Her condition was later described by police as critical but stable.
The shooting was the latest in a series of violent episodes that have put New Yorkers on edge as they tested Mayor Eric Adams' promise to improve public safety following increases in some crimes during the pandemic. In particular, gun violence has risen sharply in parts of the city.
After being briefed on the shooting, Mr. Adams with the girl's family at the hospital, according to a spokesman. From there, the mayor went to the shooting scene for a further briefing with investigators, to meet with anti-violence activists and to speak to journalists.
Speaking on the spot, Mr. Adam's episode as a "wake-up call" and again argued for tougher rather than more lenient measures to detain violent criminals, especially those facing gun charges. He urged the city's district attorneys and state legislators to take a stand.
"When you look at the video, it was a total disregard for the innocent people walking these streets," he said, an apparent reference to footage from security cameras. "This is not the city our kids need to grow up in. And we need help."
The girl and her mother were sitting in a car parked near the intersection of Valentine Avenue and East 198th Street around 6 p.m. 18.45 when the gunman chased another man across East 198th Street from Grand Concourse into Valentine Avenue and fired at least twice, Deputy Chief Timothy McCormack said at a news conference earlier in the evening.
One of the bullets traveled through the back of the car and hit the baby in the cheek before landing on the front seat, police said.
Mr. Adams described the girl's father, who was in a nearby pharmacy at the time of the shooting, who ran out when he heard his wife's screams and saw her "holding her baby in a coat that was colored pink but stained with red blood from her child. . " Several hours later, the blood-stained jacket was still on the street near where the investigators were working.
The two men involved in the shooting escaped, no one was remanded in custody, and the investigation continues, police said.
Weapons and Arms Control in the United States
"They are the cornerstone of our city," the mayor said of the girl's parents, adding that when he met them at the hospital, "the first thing the mother did when she entered the room was grab our hands and pray." The couple has two other children, Mr. Adams.
Before speaking to journalists, Mr. Adams wearing a police jacket with the word "mayor" along with several anti-violence activists. Afterwards, at his press conference, he criticized those who "say we should not imprison those who fire bullets."
Shanequa Charles, one of the activists he had just spoken to, later said the focus on imprisonment ignored the root of the problem.
"We can be incredibly angry at the person who pressed the trigger, we can be incredibly angry at the situation that caused another of our babies to be injured," Ms. Charles, the CEO of Miss Abbie's Kids, a nonprofit for youth development in the Bronx. "But the question that we must also ask ourselves, since we are angry about these conditions, is: What caused them?"
The early days of Mr. Adam's tenure, which began Jan. 1, has been accompanied by a wave of violence, including the fatal push of a 40-year-old woman into the path of a subway train at Times Square station last weekend. Police said a homeless man who was once considered too mentally ill to stand trial for drug-related charges had confessed to the killing.
About a week earlier, a 19-year-old woman was shot and killed by a man who robbed a Burger King in East Harlem, police said. On New Year's Day, a free-standing police officer was shot in the head while sleeping in a car between shifts outside a station building in East Harlem.
The shooting of the baby on Wednesday came the night after, and about a mile from, an incident in the Bronx in which a police officer was shot while arguing with a person who police said had a gun.
On Wednesday, the 16-year-old suspect in the shooting was shot by the officer, whose name officials have not released, and who was also wounded, arrested and charged with attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon.
Officials said Tuesday that the teenager had been sentenced to probation last month in connection with a gun arrest last year. They also said the gun he had with him on Tuesday was reported stolen in South Carolina in 2020.
Sir. Adams has previously called for strict measures to stop the flow of weapons from the south to New York and other northern cities, and he said Wednesday that he planned to raise the issue at a scheduled appearance at the U.S. Mayors Conference. in Washington Thursday.
The shooting of the baby also came about 18 months after a young child named Davell Gardner was fatally hit by a bullet when gunmen attacked a nightclub in Brooklyn.
Late Wednesday, Betsy Abril, 32, leaned against the brick wall of an apartment building overlooking the shooting scene. She said she lived half a block away and had three children of her own, including a 3-month-old daughter. The shooting, she added, made her uneasy by letting her son go to the store alone to get snacks.
"As a mother herself, this was heartbreaking," said Mrs. Abril. "It's scary, this neighborhood is going out of control, so many things are happening. It's not like that before."
John Thomson had a somewhat different attitude.
Mr. Thomson, who was not far from the scene of the shooting Wednesday night, said he had grown up in the area and still visited on a regular basis.
"This does not really surprise me, but you usually do not see things as big as this," he said, gesturing past police cars and yellow tape to the block between Valentine Avenue and the Grand Concourse.
"I've witnessed a passing car, a guy pointing a gun at another, so I've seen things in this neighborhood," said Mr. Thomson, 34,. He said he was aware of Mr Adams' promise to make the city safer, but he was not sure things would get better soon.
There would, he said, "always" be "bad people with bad intentions."