Assault rifle ambush outside high school spurs calls for DA to host gun buyback

By Joe Anuta

The gruesome triple homicide that occurred in Springfield Gardens Saturday morning is being used to boost arguments for and against the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, although nearly everyone agrees the assault rifle attack is a grim reminder of the city’s dark past.

Three men were killed in a hail of gunfire across the street from Springfield Gardens High School just after 5 a.m., police said.

When officers arrived, they found two men dead in the front seats of a Jeep Cherokee peppered with bullet holes, according to the NYPD. Another man, also pronounced dead at the scene, was lying on 144th Avenue near the vehicle, which was double-parked across the street from the school.

The police had not mentioned any suspects as of press time Tuesday evening.

The dead have been identified as James Bussereth, 33, of Queens, and Jason Wood, 27, and Odane Linton, 29, of Brooklyn, who were ambushed by at least two people who fired more than 50 shots and used at least one assault rifle, the New York Post reported. A fourth man named Jeremy Brann, 35, of Kentucky, was wounded and taken to a nearby hospital, according to the newspaper.

Bussereth’s death may have been in retaliation for a drug-related robbery worth $1 million, the Post reported.

City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) returned to the scene of the crime Tuesday morning to call on Queens District Attorney Richard Brown to institute a gun buyback program in the borough, which according to the lawmaker is the only county in the city without one.

“Every DA in New York City has a gun buyback program except ours,” Sanders said. “We all have a blind spot and, sadly, this is his.”

Anticipating complications with the DA’s budget, Sanders said Brown’s office receives hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars each year from running joint investigations with the federal government in the borough’s two airports.

The DA had not responded to a request for comment by press time.

But Sanders said the buyback, along with a reinstituted federal assault rifle ban and a toned-down stop-and-frisk policy, would help to rid the streets of crime.

On the other hand, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) thought the incident was clear proof the NYPD’s controversial program needed to be defended.

“Three things would have happened if a police officer would have noticed the large AK-47 bulge and stop-and-frisked the person carrying the gun,” he said. “One, an elected official would claim the cop was racist. Two, a clueless judge would have said that the bulge wasn’t suspicious and dismissed the case. But three, lives would have been saved.”

Vallone was referring to recent cases in state appellate court where a judge threw out a gun possession case based on stop-and-frisk because the search violated the defendant’s rights.

He believes the department’s need to engage in pro-active policing is paramount and saves lives by getting guns off of the streets.

Neighbors who saw the scene described a bloodbath, with expended shell casings scattered on 144th Avenue.

“It looked like a piggy bank busted open,” said one bystander.

Friends and family of the victims waited down the street for hours in the beating sun Saturday, hoping to get confirmation on the identities of the dead from police. Two groups associated with different victims formed near the crime scene and shouted at one another as the tensions rose with the mercury.

Lenworth Wood showed a group of people a picture of his son, who he later found out was one of the dead.

“He was a good kid to me,” he said.

The deadly shooting was part of a citywide spike in crime that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has attributed to a yearly phenomenon occurring around the July 4 holiday.

But to Vallone, the spike was already riding on an overall rise in citywide crime and was dangerous considering the dwindling numbers in the police force from 10 years ago.

To Sanders, the assault-rifle attack was reminiscent of a New York few remember fondly.

“It harkens back to the terrible days of 1990s New York … where drug gangs were using these types of weapons,” he said.

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

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