Derek Trucios was still a high school student, only 17, but he was already talking about going to med school. He had finished his online classes on Wednesday afternoon and was walking with a 16-year-old friend on a residential street in Brooklyn when a man in a black ski mask approached them.
The man had a gun.
The teens refused to hand over their belongings, police said. The man shot Mr. Trucios in the head and chest. His friend was shot in the hands and back. Mr Trucios died in a nearby hospital.
“He had just started discussing his dreams of studying medicine,” said his father, Emmanuel Trucios, 39, an immigrant from Puebla, Mexico, who works in construction. “He wanted to help people. I wanted to see him do great things, like any father.
“This man does not know what he took from us,” Emmanuel Trucios said in Spanish. “He took the best son we could ever ask for.
A day after the seemingly random attack, investigators were still trying to determine whether theft was the motive or if there was another cause, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the case .
The shooting – at 2:33 p.m. outside 436 East 26th Street in Flatbush – was one of the latest incidents in a wave of gun violence in the nation’s largest city that took a toll on young New Yorkers.
Shootings have almost doubled so far this year, leaving more than 1,569 gun violence victims in their wake. Homicides jumped to 373, a peak of 33% from 2019, according to police data as of Oct. 25.
Hours after Derek Trucios’ death, an 18-year-old man was fatally shot at a delicatessen in Brooklyn’s New Lots neighborhood. The previous night, a 16-year-old was fatally shot in the chest outside Kingsborough homes in the Crown Heights neighborhood, police said.
The violence that plagued the youths included an incident earlier this week when a stray bullet hit a 20-year-old Indiana tourist staying with friends at an apartment in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood.
“We have seen a disturbing number of young people being victims of gun violence, and it must stop,” said Tony Herbert, a community activist from Brooklyn. “There is a war in the streets right now. “
Police said retaliatory violence between squabbling gangs over territory and other issues is behind much of the spike in shootings.
But the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic, the diversion of police resources to deal with civil unrest, and the reduction of programs in poor neighborhoods have also contributed to the violence, police officials said.
Mr Trucios’ parents had emigrated from Puebla, Mexico, before he and his 10-year-old sister, Joyce, were born, his father said. The family lived on 46th Street in Sunset Park.
When he turned 17 on October 23, he told his parents he wasn’t expecting a party because of the pandemic, his father said. But he beamed when relatives surprised the family with a cake and gifts.
His father was at his construction job on Wednesday when he got the call: his son was fatally injured in hospital, he was told.
“They tried to steal it, but it didn’t want to be stolen,” Mr. Trucios’ mother Isabel Estrada said.
He was the third teenager killed in 24 hours. On Tuesday evening, 16-year-old Amir Patterson was pushing his way through houses in Kingsborough when someone shot him in the chest, police said.
Police found him dying in the lobby of one of the compound’s buildings. Detectives had not disclosed the motive for Thursday’s shooting.
Lasheena Patterson, Mr. Patterson’s mother, she was still in disbelief.
“I didn’t have time to fully understand this,” Ms. Patterson said. “It’s not the reality for me right now.”
Some residents of the Kingsborough Houses heard gunshots shortly after 10 p.m. and collapsed on the ground for fear of being hit by a stray bullet.
Kevin Smith, 52, a security guard who lives on the fifth floor of the building, said he was on his bed when he heard thumping noises. At first he thought it was fireworks, he said, but then police sirens made his window shake.
He recalled for himself the 1990s, when he had moved into the housing complex and the city’s murder rate exceeded 2,000 per year.
“I hope we don’t go back to the days when there were shootings every day,” Smith said. “I’m afraid of that.”
Ashley Southall and Sean Piccoli contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed to the research.