Image courtesy NYPD
By Rebecca Henely

Western Queens elected officials and public housing residents implored the Long Island City community last week to come forward with any information about the shooter of an Upper West Side man who was gunned down in front of a Queensbridge bodega earlier this month.

“We need to make sure the people who took his life are caught and taken off the street,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).

Police found 27-year-old Francisco Leal Feb. 9 at around 9:30 p.m. at the corner of 21st Street and 41st Avenue, across the street from the Queensbridge Houses, with a gunshot wound in his chest. Surveillance footage from the scene shows a man wearing a dark hoodie raising his hand in a firing motion and then fleeing.

Leal was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital Queens, where he was later pronounced dead, police said.

“This is just one of the incidents of gun violence that have occurred here in and around Queensbridge and in the city,” Van Bramer said.

The councilman and other officials at the scene, as well as public housing officials, met at the corner where Leal was shot to ask any witnesses or those with information to come forward.

“Someone lost a child that night,” said April Simpson, president of the Queensbridge Residents’ Association. “That could be my child tomorrow. That could be your child tomorrow.”

While New York state recently passed a package of bills giving the state the strongest gun control laws in the nation, state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said microstamping, a technology which imprints markings on a bullet to allow it to be traced to the gun from which it was fired, would be an additional help to police.

“We still need to make it easier for law enforcement to put murderers in jail,” Peralta said.

Bishop Mitchell Taylor, founder of the East River Development Alliance, which runs programs to better the lives of public housing residents, said gun violence cannot be considered a natural byproduct of the projects. He also said illegal guns need to be stopped from coming into New York from other states.

“These guns don’t just grow up in the projects,” Taylor said. “Someone is taking the guns here.”

Marion Jeffries, president of the Astoria/Long Island City branch of the NAACP, said more establishments and activities need to be available for young people so they do not get sucked into the world of gun violence.

“When families are destroyed, communities are destroyed,” she said. “This has to stop.”

Those with information should contact CrimeStoppers by calling 1-800-577-TIPS or by visiting nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577, police said. The NYPD keeps all calls confidential.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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