A suspect has been arrested in the fatal shooting of 10-year-old Justin Wallace in New York City, a crime that outraged residents and city leaders, and underscored an alarming spike in gun violence across the nation.
The suspect, identified by the New York Police Department as 29-year-old Javon Young, voluntarily surrendered to authorities Tuesday night, on what would have been Justin's birthday.
"Justin Wallace should have turned 11 today. He should have spent today celebrating with his friends and family," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter following the arrest of Young. "If you shoot and kill in New York City, you will be caught. You will be arrested. You will be held accountable."
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea praised detectives who, he said, worked around the clock on this investigation "tirelessly seeking justice for an innocent 10-year-old boy."
Young was arraigned Wednesday in Queens Criminal Court on charges of second-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder, assault in the first degree and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. He was ordered to be held in jail without bail and faces a prison sentence of 25 years to life if convicted.
"There isn’t a parent alive who doesn’t mourn this family’s loss, another tragic result from gun violence," Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a statement. "The defendant allegedly fired repeatedly into an occupied house, is now in custody and faces justice in our Courts.”
The alleged killer appeared stone-faced as two detectives walked him out of a police precinct Tuesday night and placed him in a car to be taken to the city's central booking facility.
Justin's death came amid a 70% surge in shootings in New York City in the first five months of 2021, compared with the same period as last year.
At least 131 children 11 years old or younger have died from gun violence this year across the U.S., and another 314 have been injured, according to the Gun Violence Archieve, a website that tracks shootings.
The fifth-grade student and a 29-year-old relative were shot around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday at a house in the Far Rockaway section in the city's Queens borough, police said. Assistant District Attorney Bryan Kotowski alleged that one of eight bullets Young fired hit Justin in the abdomen and tore through his heart and left lung. The boy was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
The prosecutor said Kyle Forrester, a relative of Justin, was shot three times in the back, once in the hand and once in the neck. He said Forrester is in a hospital in critical condition.
Kotowski said at least three witnesses identified Young as the gunman on the night of the shooting. He said Young was quickly detained and brought to a police precinct for questioning and was released.
But prosecutors said investigators determined that Young did not tell the truth about his whereabouts at the time of the shooting.
Young was arrested Tuesday when he voluntarily returned to the police precinct for a follow-up interview with investigators.
Police said Young drove up to the home, pulled out a gun and started firing from the bottom of the front stoop as Justin was standing at the front door getting ready to leave the home with his father.
Investigators are probing whether the shooting stemmed from an ongoing dispute, possibly over parking, authorities said.
Young's attorney, Beth Unger, said in court that Young never made any efforts to evade police and fully cooperated with investigators.
"It's my understanding that my client surrendered, and not only did he surrender, he had previously come to the precinct when requested by police and released, and then returned when police were looking for him," Unger said.
The NYPD released a security video Sunday afternoon that showed a dark-colored SUV driving slowly by the home. Moments later, the gunman, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and mask, is seen walking up to the house and firing up to eight shots from the bottom of the front stoop before running away.
Earlier this week, Mayor de Blasio visited Justin's parents at their home and vowed that the "cowardly, horrible human being who fired gunshots just randomly into a home" will face justice.
"He will suffer the consequences of what he did," de Blasio said.