A 20-year-old mother pushing her 3-month-old child in a stroller was executed at point-blank range by a gunman wearing all black on Manhattan’s Upper East Side Wednesday, and that suspect remained on the loose early Thursday, authorities say.
Cops responding to a 911 call about shots fired near Lexington Avenue and East 95th Street around 8:30 p.m. found the woman unconscious. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The NYPD identified her as Aszia Johnson.
The baby wasn’t hurt. Few details were immediately available on the Manhattan shooting. Top police officials said at a press conference late Wednesday they were looking into whether the gunman may have had a relationship with the victim or might be the child’s father, but there was no immediate confirmation of that early Thursday.
Two senior NYPD officials said later Thursday they were looking to speak with the child’s father about the case, but they have not identified him as a suspect at this point.
Multiple law enforcement sources with direct knowledge of the case say investigators recovered surveillance video and other footage from in and around the crime scene — and they continue to canvass for evidence that may track the gunman’s movements.
The sources say already recovered video shows the gunman pacing in front of a residence right before the shooting. The shooting is not believed to be random.
The gunman approached the woman from behind and shot her once in the head before taking off on foot on East 95th Street, sources said.
Whoever shot the woman, according to the NYPD, fired a single shot at her head before running off. He was last seen running eastbound on East 95th Street, the NYPD said. One shell casing was recovered at the scene, police sources said.
An initial video canvas of the area turned up some clues, the senior NYPD officials added. Surveillance captures the mother with the stroller at one point — and the presumed shooter at another, the officials said. Cameras that would have faced the exact incident spot were not immediately accessible, the officials said.
Meanwhile, no arrests have been made in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.
Mayor Eric Adams, who had spent Wednesday discussing gun violence — announcing a ghost gun crackdown with New York State Attorney General Letitia James before meeting with Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York on gun trafficking — stood alongside NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell as she briefed the media.
“This entire day we have been addressing the problem of overproliferation of guns on our street, how readily accessible they are and how there is just no fear in using these guns on innocent New Yorkers,” Adams said Wednesday. “This is the result of that.”
“These are real lives, when a mother is pushing a baby carriage down the block and is shot at point-blank range it shows just how this national problem is impacting families,” the Democratic mayor added as he called for bail reform. Adams also demanded, as he has frequently in recent weeks, more government action to buckle a trend he says applies whether “you are on the Upper East Side or East New York, Brooklyn.”
“We’re going to continue to do our job,” he continued. “We’re going to find this person who is guilty of this horrific crime. We’re going to find him and bring him to justice. We need to make sure this innocent person receives the justice we’re asking for.”
Two senior NYPD officials say interviews conducted with the victim’s family revealed a history of violence between the dead woman and her baby’s father, but the alleged violence, which included at least one assault, happened before the child was born.
He did, however, allegedly threaten violence against the woman after the baby’s birth, the senior officials said. What was actually reported to police over the course of the alleged abuse remains a matter under investigation, the senior officials added.
Also, there have been threats of violence from the father to the deceased after the baby’s birth. The NYPD is also investigating a domestic violence report the victim apparently filed against a different man in January 2021, the senior officials said.
New York, like many other U.S. cities, has contended with rising concern about violent crime, though police statistics show shootings have declined about 12% and murders 13% so far this year, compared with the same period last year.
Murders, however, remain at their second-highest level since 2012.