A Queens man was charged with murder on Tuesday in the fatal weekend shooting of a 10-year-old boy who was killed as he opened the door to leave his aunt’s house. The arrest came the day that the boy, Justin Wallace, would have turned 11.
In addition to the murder count, the man, Jovan Young, was charged with attempted murder in the wounding of Justin’s 29-year-old cousin amid what officials said was a hail of at least eight gunshots around 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Mr. Young, 29, who also faces weapons possession charges, was awaiting arraignment late Tuesday, officials said.
The fatal shooting of a child days shy of celebrating his birthday with a trip to an amusement park was a stark example of the surge in gun violence that has gripped New York in recent months, feeding growing fears of crime and vaulting public safety to the fore in the current mayor’s race.
Through Saturday, 678 people in the city had been killed or injured in 594 shootings so far this year. Both figures were up about 69 percent compared with the same period in 2020, when 402 people were wounded in 352 shootings. The number of victims was the highest for the period since 2002, according to Police Department data.
Justin, who was finishing fifth grade at Challenge Preparatory Charter School in Far Rockaway, was one of nine people shot on Saturday in six separate events, the police said. A second child, a 12-year-old girl who was shot in the Bronx, was among the day’s other victims.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, after visiting Justin’s family Saturday night, called the killing “a cowardly act,” and he vowed to bring the gunman to justice.
“We’re trying to comfort this family, and we’re telling them one thing we are certain of,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We will find this killer.”
In a message posted on Twitter after Mr. Young was arrested, the mayor said that Justin should have been celebrating his birthday with his friends and family.
The motive for the shooting remained unclear on Tuesday. According to the police, Mr. Young arrived on Beach 45th Street in the Edgemere neighborhood in a dark blue sport utility vehicle that drove past Justin’s aunt’s home just before the gunfire began.
The home’s security cameras recorded him as he approached the house and began shooting through a railing on the steps leading to the doorway before running off.
Justin was hit in the stomach and was pronounced dead at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. His cousin, Kyle Forrester, was shot in the shoulder and was expected to survive, officials said.
As happened last month when two women and a 4-year-old girl were wounded in a shooting in Times Square, several leading Democratic mayoral candidates were quick to cite Justin’s death as proof that their focus on public safety was warranted as New York finds its way back to normalcy after the pandemic. (An arrest also came swiftly in the Times Square case.)
“Our babies are dying in our streets,” Eric Adams, a former police captain who has put fighting crime at the center of his campaign, said on Twitter. Andrew Yang, a former technology entrepreneur, called Justin’s death “awful and unthinkable.” Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner, said the shooting revealed “something broken” in the city’s political system.
Aretha Douglas Wallace, Justin’s mother, could not immediately be reached on Tuesday after Mr. Young was arrested. On Sunday, speaking outside the family’s home on Beach 69th Street, her eyes rimmed with tears, she described the boy as “my pride, my joy.”
“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.”