Fatal Gunfight Erupts Over Damaged Bronx Christmas Decorations, Police Say

By Alan Neuhauser on December 24, 2012 11:21am | Updated on December 24, 2012 4:03pm

THE BRONX — An apparent dispute between neighbors over damaged Christmas decorations ended in a fatal gunfight in Mount Hope Sunday evening, leaving a local father dead and a 28-year-old man injured, police and witnesses said.

Louis Garcia, 22, was shot once in the chest and killed after becoming involved in a fight with another man outside their apartment building at 273 E. 176th St. about 5 p.m., the NYPD said.

"It resulted from a previous dispute earlier in the day, possibly involving damaged Christmas decorations," a police source said. "They saw each other later on, and it got worse from that point."

The 28-year-old, whose identity has not been released, was shot once in the leg and transported to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.

Investigators believe Garcia and the 28-year-old shot each other, a police source said, but the 28-year-old had not been charged with a crime as of Monday afternoon.

Garcia had many previous run-ins with cops, most recently for robbery, criminal possession of a weapon, and criminal possession of stolen property.

Nevertheless, residents described him as a loving father devoted to his 2-year-old daughter.

"His daughter was his world," recalled friend and neighbor Chris Rivera, 41.

Days before Christmas, Garcia could barely wait to give his daughter the Nike sneakers he'd bought her to match his own, Rivera said.

"He bought a pair of Jordans for him and his daughter," Rivera said. "He was like, 'I can't wait for her to put them on.'"

Two witnesses said Garcia may have been shot trying to break up a fight between the 28-year-old man and an unidentified third person.

A friend, who gave his name as Luis, said he was standing on the sidewalk Sunday evening when he heard Garcia shout from inside the building's lobby, "Both of y'all live in the building. Make peace, you have to see each other every day," Luis told DNAinfo.com New York.

Luis then saw about seven people run from the building's lobby. Gunfire soon followed, shattering the Sunday calm, police and residents said.

"I was in my house — I heard shots," recounted a 20-year-old woman, who lives a half-block from the scene. She declined to give her name, but said she was a close friend of Garcia's, referring to him as a brother.

"I ran out, and I saw my brother on the floor. He was gasping for air, gasping for warmth," she recalled. "His last words were, 'I love my daughter. Make sure she knows I love her.'"

Luis described a similarly harrowing scene.

"His last words were, 'Make sure my daughter knows that I love her,'" Luis said. "He just put his head down and he just went to sleep."

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