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Wave of violence ends in murder

By Joe Anuta

A mother is grieving and 13 youths have been arraigned following a fatal South Jamaica shooting Friday that sparked an outpouring of support from the community and a call for oversight hearings in City Hall.

The cold-blooded murder capped a series of shootings that had played out across southeast Queens since the summer and allegedly involved some of the youthful suspects charged in the killing of 18-year-old Darryl Adams early Friday morning in the housing project known as 40 Projects.

One elected official was haunted by the thought that the killing could have been prevented if the city had moved the victim’s family to a safer neighborhood.

At about 12:30 a.m. Adams was gunned down outside South Jamaica Houses near the corner of 107th Avenue and 159th Street, police said. The shooting occurred about seven months after Adams survived a bullet wound he received in St. Albans.

Immediately after the first shots were fired, an officer operating a surveillance camera captured Adams running along a sidewalk and collapsing on the ground. The footage then showed two men walk by, and one of them fire again while Adams was on the ground.

Seconds later, an unmarked police car arrived on the scene and arrested two teenagers: 16-year-old Alexander Burgess and 19-year-old Sean Barnhill. They were charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon.

Shanta Merritt does not know whether Friday’s murder of her son was related to the earlier incident when he was shot, but police have started making connections to other southeast Queens shootings.

The NYPD said Saturday it had raided a Rosedale house at 142-19 Hook Creek Blvd. and made 11 other arrests that were related to Friday morning’s shooting.

On the same day, the NYPD said it had charged both Burgess and Barnhill with earlier attempted murders in two separate incidents in southeast Queens.

Out of the 11 other youths arrested at the Rosedale house, two were charged with the same attempted murders.

One of the teens, 17-year-old Dontaye Goines, along with Burgess, allegedly shot a man Feb. 25, according to the NYPD.

Another, 17-year-old Romain Brady, along with Barnhill, is accused of shooting a man March 1, according to the NYPD.

Also in the house were eight other young men, including two minors, and a young woman.

When police recovered five handguns from the premisis, all of them were charged with criminal possession of a weapon, police said.

A day later, Adam’s mother was outside their apartment complex at South Jamaica Houses, neatly placing rows of candles along a window sill in a memorial to her son and hugging some of the friends and family who came to pay their respects.

Adams was active in several basketball programs, including the Police Athletic League, where her son helped members of the NYPD’s 103rd Precinct win ball games on the court.

“Half the 103rd Precinct knew my son,” she said.

Adams was also in the process of getting his GED in order to accept a sports scholarship at SUNY, his mother said. On the day of the murder he was set to talk to a guidance counselor about the test.

Instead his mother had to start making plans for his funeral.

The video and news of the shooting stunned City Councilman Reuben Wills (D-Jamaica), who had been helping Merritt get a transfer after her son was shot over the summer.

“My entire office was taken aback by it,” he said. “They were devastated.”

In June, Adams was walking home early in the morning when he was shot in the buttocks along with three other teens in St. Albans.

Adams made a recovery, but his friend, 18-year-old Terrell Fountain died.

After the shooting, Merritt said her son did not talk much about the death of his friend. Instead he wore a picture of the slain teen around his neck, she said.

Merritt and Wills are making sure that Adams’ death is not forgotten.

Wills is planning to hold oversight hearings in April about the New York City Housing Authority’s policy for transferring tenants if they are victims of violent crimes.

Adams left behind two sisters and two brothers, one of whom, Ronald “Rondu” Merritt, was featured in TimesLedger Newspapers for turning his life around and inspiring other teens to do the same.

Her son’s death seems to have sparked a new outrage in the community, one that Merritt hopes will cut down on teen gun violence.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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