Corona man charged in stray bullet shooting that killed Jackson Heights mother of three

Courtesy Jim Burke

A Corona man was charged with murder, manslaughter and other crimes for allegedly firing a single shot that struck and killed a married mother of three in Jackson Heights, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

Issam Elabbar, 31, of 41st Avenue in Corona, is awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court for the shooting on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Katz said it was shortly before 1 a.m., when the victim, Bertha Arriaga, 43, was near a third-story window of her family’s home when a bullet flew through the glass and struck her in the lower neck, piercing her carotid artery. Video surveillance of the street allegedly shows the defendant Elabbar and another individual using a tool to cut through a chain tying a motorized scooter to a fixed object on the sidewalk.

While fleeing the scene, the defendant was observed firing one shot from a loaded weapon in his right hand across his left shoulder without looking to see where the shot would be directed. The oldest of the victim’s three children heard noises and followed the sound to his parent’s room. When the teen turned on the light, he saw his mother on the floor, bleeding and barely breathing.

He yelled out for his father, who attempted CPR, but the victim succumbed to the single gunshot wound. Elabbar was arrested Saturday after the video surveillance of the alleged attempted bike theft was released to the media and a $10,000 reward was offered for information leading to the capture and prosecution of the shooter.

“This is a heart-wrenching case. A youngster, just 14 years old, woke to the sounds of his mother gasping for air and found her bleeding and near death,” Katz said. “Because of the defendant’s depraved indifference, a husband is now without a wife and three children are without a mom. How senseless. Firing a gun in a residential neighborhood shows utter disregard for the tragedy that can result. We cannot heal their pain, but my office will do everything possible to bring this family justice.”

If convicted, Elabbar faces up to 25 years to life in prison. Jackson Heights residents held a candlelight vigil in Arriaga’s honor while the family set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the funeral cost, temporary living expenses, and her repatriation to her native Mexico. Those wishing to donate can visit the page here.