Gang violence killed innocent college basketball star Darius Lee, police say in Harlem mass shooting

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) – A 21-year-old college basketball star was killed and eight others shot when gunfire erupted in Harlem.

It’s believed that it was a gang shootout that left an innocent young man dead.

Tuesday morning, family and friends of the man killed at the late-night BBQ spoke out as police continued searching for the gunmen.

College basketball star Darius Lee, 21, was a 2018 graduate of St. Raymond High School in the Bronx. He was set to graduate from Houston Baptist University next year.

Lee made his family, friends, coaches, and teammates proud, and they honored him Monday night in Harlem and Houston.

St. Raymond High School released a statement about the former student’s death in an Instagram post:

“We are heartbroken and devastated to learn of the senseless passing of Darius Lee, class of 2018. Our prayers and condolences go out to his family at this time, and we pray for his eternal rest with our Lord. Aside from being a tremendous basketball “star, he was a phenomenal human being, and a young man living such a positive life, succeeding in school, on the court, and in life. These senseless acts of violence need to stop … such a tragedy.”

He was shot and killed after gunfire erupted at a cookout along the Harlem River drive around 12:30 am Monday.

Nine people were shot.

Seven men and two women ranging in age from 21 to 42 were struck in a park along the East River in the area of ​​Fifth Avenue and East 139th Street.

Two of the people who were shot have gang ties, and at least one of them may have been a gunman.

Very little surveillance video has been recovered due to the location of the gunfire, across from an overpass on the other side of the highway.

WATCH: Where the gunfire erupted and where the victims fled

It was specifically chosen, according to the organizer’s Instagram post, to evade police.

“He’s an innocent kid,” said Lee’s sister Tiara Weaver. “He decided to stay outside one day, and this is what happens.”

“He was a pure soul. So kind,” said his cousin Thailyn Lee. “Wasn’t into the streets or anything. He was all about basketball. He didn’t deserve any of this.”

Police recovered one gun from the scene.

Detectives believe at least three guns were used to fire dozens of shots.

They are still trying to determine how many.

So far, there have been no arrests and they’re asking for the public’s help.

Mayor Eric Adams and the police commissioner are expected to provide another update Tuesday afternoon.

In the wake of the shooting, Lee’s coach expressed grief and confusion over his star’s untimely killing.

“Darius was a remarkable young man who loved the Lord, his mom, his family, his teammates, his friends, and his entire HBU family,” Ron Cottrell, HBU’s head men’s basketball coach, wrote in a statement. “We are in shock and cannot wrap our heads around this news.”

In spite of the violent circumstance of Lee’s death, Cottrell added that his student-athlete left a positive legacy behind.

“As great of a basketball player as he was, he was an even better person. I can not even think of basketball right now. I can only think of what a light Darius was during his short time on earth. He was a joy to coach and we loved him so much, “Cottrell wrote.

HBU’s director of athletics, Steve Moniaci, not only expressed sorrow over losing Lee, but also railed over yet another act of gun violence.

“He was a very fine young man who had a very bright future in front of him both on and off the court. This is unfortunately, yet again, another example of the senseless gun violence that seems to be plaguing our country right now and we all pray it will cease, “Moniaci wrote in a statement.

Lee’s impact on the court was also too hard to ignore.

This past season, he was a second-team All-Southland Conference selection after leading Houston Baptist in scoring and rebounding. He was also one of the best defenders in the country, finishing sixth in the nation in steals per game.

Darius’ father Eric Lee says his son was once chubby and not a kid you would expect to become a star athlete.

But by 21 years old, Lee had earned one basketball scholarship after another and was a star at the university. He was not a young adult anyone would expect to become a victim of gun violence.

Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). You can also submit tips by visiting the CrimeStoppers website at crimestoppers.nypdonline.org or by messaging on Twitter @NYPDTips.

As of June 20, there have been 277 mass shootings in the US this year, according to Gun Violence Archive.

There were 692 mass shootings in 2021, 611 in 2020, and 417 in 2019.
Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as a shooting with four or more people injured or killed, not including the perpetrator.

Sister station KTRK in Houston contributed to this report

ALSO READ | Three members of the same family killed in Queens fire

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