New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed Wednesday that New Yorkers are not “living in fear” despite statistics showing record spikes in violent crime, in remarks made at a press conference just hours after a tourist from Kansas was struck by a stray bullet fired by a reputed gang member near Times Square.
The tourist, 44-year-old Chris Ruby, was struck in the shoulder while walking back to his hotel room around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday at the intersection of 8th Ave and 38th St. near Times Square. An assailant pulled out a gun and opened fire on another individual nearby, but missed, striking Ruby, and fleeing on foot up 8th Ave., police said.
Brannovan Martinez, 21, of the Bronx, was later taken into custody and charged with criminal use of a firearm and reckless endangerment. He is described by authorities as a reputed gang member with multiple prior arrests for drugs and assaults in the vicinity of the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
During a press conference held just hours after the shooting Wednesday, a reporter challenged de Blasio as to why the mayor wasn’t addressing the incident involving the tourist near Times Square, as well as the 5-year-old girl who was grazed by a stray bullet while playing on the sidewalk in Brooklyn on Monday.
“It clearly won’t be tolerated, because for years now we have been changing the whole reality of how we address crime and violence,” de Blasio responded. “We had a horrible disruption last year with a perfect storm of COVID. But NYPD is out there doing great work, more gun arrests than we’ve had in a quarter-century.
“So, of course, we condemn all violence. But the best way to address violence is by getting guns off the street, which the NYPD is doing by working with communities more closely. And that’s what our police reform is all about, deepening the bond between NYPD and community. And I know that’s going to have a huge impact.”
On Wednesday, the NYPD released its citywide crime statistics for March 2021. New York City saw increases in index crimes, with the exception of robbery and burglary. Overall index crime rose 2.4% compared with March 2020, driven by a 36% increase in murder and a 35.1% increase in grand larceny auto. There was a 76.8% increase in shootings citywide compared to last March.
“I’ve talked to New Yorkers all over the city. They are focused on this city coming back. I do not believe New Yorkers live in fear,” de Blasio continued at the press conference. “It’s just not who we are. I believe there’s some real issues we have to address,I believe we’ve seen a serious uptick in gun violence that has to be addressed.”
Again responding to the reporter’s concern about bystanders being shot, the mayor said the issue of gun violence is already being addressed “by more gun arrests, by deeper work with communities, more use of and more support for the pure violence movement and the crisis management system.”
“We’ve been talking about these investments and these changes for months now, and we’re doing it,” de Blasio said. “I think people see these actions and they know that continued help is coming. But New Yorkers don’t live in fear. They keep moving forward. I really believe that. I’ve believed that all of my life.”
“I’m ready to go home,” Ruby told the outlet, wearing a sling under his sweatshirt during the interview. “I was in the hospital for five hours and then the police station for two or three … All those New York souvenirs I have, I don’t want to look at them.”
Ruby, a baseball enthusiast, said he has a dream to watch a game in every stadium in the country and had arrived in New York City from Philadelphia, where he attended a Mets v. Phillies game. While walking to his hotel in midtown around 2:30 a.m., he said he spotted a man draw a gun and point it slightly off to his side. Ruby then felt a sharp pain and rushed into a smoke shop, where an attendant called 911.
“I felt this huge pain in my shoulder, and I had no idea what it was,” he said. “I took off my jacket, and there was blood everywhere.”
According to WABC-TV, Martinez has a lengthy rap sheet. Records show he was arrested in January after allegedly shoving his ex-girlfriend into a wall at Columbus Circle and West 58th Street.
He was arrested four times in 2019, including being one of three charged with assault following a fight outside Schnippers, the restaurant on the first floor of the New York Times building. The 27-year-old victim was stabbed and beaten with a tire iron in a gang-related attack allegedly directed by Martinez.