Harlem Mourns 13-Year-Old Allegedly Killed by Brother
HARLEM — Her friends described her as a "real person," a quiet kid who loved to make others laugh but who was saddened by problems at home.
News that 13-year-old Annie Fryar had been shot dead by her brother at the apartment they shared at the Polo Grounds Houses in Harlem with their mother left those friends at her class at P.S. 46 devastated Tuesday.
"At first, I thought no way, it wasn't true," said Fryar's classmate Julio Diaz, 14.
"But when we found out it was, everyone started crying. Some of the girls ran home. It felt like we cried for six periods straight."
Diaz was just one of the baby-faced adolescents who gathered outside Building #2 at the Polo Grounds Tuesday night for a prayer vigil to remember their friend.
Twelve stories above is where Fryar's brother, 28-year-old Steven Murray, allegedly shot his sister twice in the head early Tuesday before turning the gun on his mother, Christine Fryar, according to police.
Murray fled while his injured mother gave his description to police.
A short time later, he was involved in a wild shootout with police who fired dozens of bullets, hitting Murray was shot in the leg and torso.
"What's really important is that we are showing love for a family that has experienced tragedy," said Rev. Al Taylor who organized the vigil and has been conducting weekly prayer walks in the Polo Grounds for more than three years.
"Right now, it's all about the young people," he said.
Those young people were traumatized, still processing that young Annie was dead. The teens and pre-teens hugged one another and tried to light candles for Annie, but the wind kept putting them out.
"She was helpful. She was grateful. She had a smile for everybody," said Annie Fryar's classmate Kelsey Carter, 13.
Carter said Annie sometimes came to school depressed about her family life, but would always try and make light of it by making jokes about her brother. The day before her death, friends said Annie left school to go home because her brother was drunk and arguing with her mother.
Murray was described by long-time residents at the Polo Grounds as a recent arrival to the 12th floor apartment. He'd moved from North Carolina and wasn't working or contributing to the family.
And he was becoming disruptive. It was no secret in the neighborhood that Christine Fryar wanted her son gone from the apartment.
Peter Martinez, 42, who has lived at Annie's building in the Polo Grounds for more than a decade, said he saw the family leaving the building a few weeks ago. He said Murray was speaking to Annie in a rough manner, angry that she had somehow gotten him into trouble with their mother.
"He spoke to his little sister like she wasn't his little sister," said Martinez. Christine Fryar followed the pair out of the building.
"I heard her saying, 'He's got to go, He's got to get the hell out,''' Martinez said.
The night of the shooting, Martinez said he noticed Murray bouncing in and out of the building and walking back and forth to a nearby deli.
"I saw him standing by the elevator looking stressed," said Martinez. "I can't say I'm surprised something happened, especially living up in this place."
Others struggled with what had happened.
"Something is wrong in our community when a son says I'm going to kill my mother and little sister too," said Rev. Vernon Williams, president of the Harlem Clergy Community Leaders Coalition and Perfect Peace Ministries.
Patricia McCray, tenant president of the nearby Harlem River Houses, said the incident should send a message that the community needs to cooperate with one another.
"This is a tragedy. Someone should have heard something," said McCray. "We need to help one another. We have to save our children. This community is in distress."
Taylor said he's hopeful that something good can come out of the situation, such as addressing the easy availability of guns and providing better psychological response to incidents of violence.
"There are too many weapons out there. Even though this is tragic, this is what people in the neighborhood have come to expect," said Taylor.
"This is horrific but people just suck it up and keep going."
Belyell Richardson, 14, is one of those people.
Standing in the crowd with a relative who brought him to the vigil, he spoke slowly and in low tones about his friend Annie.
"I'm going to miss a lot about her," Richardson said. "She was like, a real person."