Fatal Shooting of a Teenager in Riverbank State Park Shocks an Urban Oasis

As he often does, Clark Peña was sitting on a bench in Riverbank State Park in Harlem on Saturday evening, catching up on work and watching families play and picnic on a humid Fourth of July weekend.

Then he heard about five shots ring out. It was sometime after 6 p.m., and the sun was hazy but still bright.

“I thought, ‘It can’t be gunshots, it’s daylight. It must be fireworks,’” Mr. Peña said in a phone interview on Sunday morning.

Mr. Peña, a U.S. Army veteran, said he ran toward the source of the sound, where he saw a boy on a road near a basketball court lying face down, a pool of blood beneath him.

“His eyes were rolled up and he was gasping,” Mr. Peña said. “He was at the start of his life, this young man.” The boy was only 15.

State Police officers arrived and raced to aid the boy, who had been shot in the chest and in the leg, Mr. Peña said.

The 15-year-old boy was rushed to an area hospital but could not be saved, Major Brian P. Webster, a troop commander with the New York State Police, said in a statement.

It was unclear on Sunday whether the teenager was targeted, or if he had been caught in crossfire. No one has been arrested. Police did not identify the teenager.

Riverbank Park, a long stretch of green space along the Hudson River from around West 137th to West 145th Streets, is an urban oasis. Set just off busy roadways that lead people out of the city, the park — with its playground, basketball court, swimming pool, barbecue spots and garden — is a place of repose for those who stay local to enjoy the summer in Upper Manhattan.

“I’ve never heard of anything like this happening here,” said Jonathan Munoz, 38, who comes to the park several times a week to ride his bicycle or go for a run.

Channon Greenfield, 36, arrived about 20 minutes after the shooting to check on his bed of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce at the park’s fenced-in community garden. A woman he knows from the garden, tending to plants when the shots were fired, ran and hid in sheds with other gardeners, while others lay down next to the raised garden beds, hoping they might provide cover, he was told.

“How crazy is it that you could just be shot and killed while gardening,” Mr. Greenfield said the next day, when he returned to the park to see to his vegetables.

Late Sunday the state parks office said nightly Park Police patrols would be stepped up at Riverbank State Park.

Across from where the previous day’s shooting took place, a group of people played hoops on Sunday in the late-morning sun. To the side of the basketball court, three men took a break from the on-court heat and dried their brows in the shade of a tree.

There have been 464 shootings in the city this year through June 25 compared with 616 shootings during the same time last year, according to the most recently available police statistics. In those incidents, 543 people were shot this year compared with 739 people last year.

On Sunday, a group of young men gathered in front of an apartment building on West 141st Street, off Broadway, staring at a dozen or so memorial candles lit in homage to the victim. They declined to comment.

Another neighbor, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity for reasons of safety, said a group of young people who were spending time in the area had lately drawn the attention of the police.

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