Boy, 10, Killed in Queens Shooting That Mayor Calls ‘a Coward’s Act’


Justin Wallace’s 11th birthday was fast approaching, and the soon-to-be sixth grader was eagerly planning a celebration that included a trip to an amusement park and a buffet.

But those preparations were cut tragically short on Saturday when he was shot and killed by a gunman who opened fire as the boy opened the door to leave his aunt’s house in Queens, the police and a school official said.

Investigators were searching for the gunman and a motive on Sunday as Justin’s killing prompted outcry from elected officials and mayoral candidates, who lamented the death of another child amid rising gun violence in the city. Justin’s 29-year-old cousin, who was also wounded, was recovering in the hospital.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called the shooting “a coward’s act” on Twitter and visited the family in the evening with Donovan Richards, the Queens borough president, and Selvena Brooks-Powers, the local City Council member. The mayor said it had been painful to hear Justin’s parents talk about their dreams for the slain boy, and he vowed that the killing would not go unsolved.

“The idea you lose your child before you’re gone is just, there’s no words,” he told reporters at the scene. “We’re trying to comfort this family, and we’re telling them one thing we are certain of: We will we’ll find this killer.”

The police were investigating whether the shooting stemmed from a parking dispute between neighbors earlier in the day, officials said on Sunday. The gunman arrived in a dark blue sport utility vehicle that was seen driving past the home just before the shooting, the police said.

The home’s security cameras recorded the gunman as he walked up to the house on Beach 45th Street in the Edgemere neighborhood at about 9:30 p.m. and fired at least eight shots through the railing on the steps leading to the doorway before running off.

Justin, who was about to turn 11 on Tuesday, was struck in the stomach and pronounced dead at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. His cousin, Kyle Forrester, whom police earlier identified as an uncle, was shot in the shoulder but expected to survive.

Credit…The Rev. Dr. Les Mullings

“He was my pride, my joy,” Aretha Douglas Wallace, Justin’s mother, said on Sunday afternoon after emerging from the family’s home on Beach 69th Street in neighboring Arverne. “My rock.”

Tears rimmed her eyes as she walked out of the house’s front gate, describing where their party plans had left off.

“I was going to make calls to the children for the party,” she said. “Justin was going to give me a list, and I was going to call everyone.”

Down the sidewalk, she wrapped her arms around a young man in a suit, and they held each other in a long embrace.

Justin was finishing up the fifth grade at Challenge Preparatory Charter School, according to the Rev. Dr. Les Mullings, the founder. Nicole Griffin, the principal, sent a note to staff on Sunday announcing his death and the school’s plans for a ceremony to remember him.

The boy was one of nine people shot on Saturday in six separate incidents, according to the police. Another child, a 12-year-old girl, and a man were shot earlier Saturday in an unrelated incident in the Bronx.

The girl, who was visiting from New Jersey, was hit in the ankle, and the man, 25, was shot in the chest shortly before 6 p.m. outside a building on Wythe Place near the intersection with East 171st Street. Both victims were treated at BronxCare Health System and expected to survive, the police said.

The police released video of the suspect running from the scene of the shooting in the Bronx and descending into a subway station carrying a Dunkin’ bag.

The shootings came amid a spike in gun violence in New York and other major cities. Through Saturday, 678 people in the city had been killed or injured in 594 shootings. Both figures increased about 69 percent from the same period in 2020, when 402 people were hurt in 352 shootings.

The continued rise in shootings has fueled growing fears of crime and made public safety a dominant issue in the mayor’s race. Several candidates issued statements on the violence on Sunday.

“Our babies are dying in our streets,” Eric Adams, a former police captain who has made public safety the centerpiece of his campaign, said on Twitter. Andrew Yang, the former tech entrepreneur and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, called Justin’s death “awful and unthinkable.”

And Kathryn Garcia, the city’s former sanitation commissioner, said the gun violence showed “something broken” in a political system where public-safety decisions are driven by ideology instead of data.

At the white two-family house where Justin lived on Beach 69th Street, relatives held a vigil on the front porch.

Mesha, 36, a family friend who would only give her first name, described Justin as “rambunctious” and “fun.”

On a day like Sunday, he would be playing with the family’s dog, Hazel. “He’d be rubbing all over her, chasing her around,” Mesha said as the dog rested in the yard alone.

Or he might be riding his bike, a skill he had just learned. Occasionally, he tossed around a football with a friend who sometimes visited his grandmother on the block.

Dawn Thaxter, 59, who lives across the street, praised Justin’s good manners. “Whenever he sees you, he would always say hi,” she said.

Ramos Gaston, 49, lives in the apartment above Justin’s family. His 12-year-old stepson, who moved in with him last year, had become fast friends with Justin over games of Minecraft, Mr. Gaston said.

When it came to the boy’s killing, he was as lost for words as those who had come to pay their respects.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Austin Ramzy contributed reporting.



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