Fights Erupt at Emotional Wake for Teen Shot on the Lower East Side
At least three separate fights erupted outside the Provenzano Lanza Funeral Home on Second Avenue, where hundreds of friends and relatives had gathered to mourn the slain teen.
Ward was found shot in the chest at roughly 9 p.m. Friday outside the Tearedhan Convenience Store on Columbia Street, near the Baruch Houses where he lived. Witnesses and friends said that on the night of his death, Ward was hanging out with friends who had fought with rivals from a different housing project a few days before.
On Wednesday afternoon, as mourners filled the East Village funeral home, a few young men began pushing each other and shouting just outside the funeral home's doors, with one teen screaming, "He shouldn't be here, he shouldn't be here!"
Several young women, sobbing hysterically, tried to break up the scuffle, but the fight spilled into the street and momentarily stopped traffic as police flooded the scene.
The argument broke up but then restarted shortly afterward a couple blocks away on Houston Street, and then another scuffle started in front of the funeral home later.
It was not immediately clear what triggered the scuffles. No arrests were made, according to police.
"Emotions were overrun," a police source at the scene said.
On Wednesday, many of the mourners described Ward as a young man who loved baseball, always smiled and knew how to make people laugh.
"He was very charismatic. He always had a smile on his face. I think people were drawn to him," said Meishay Gattis, a clubhouse director with The Boys' Club New York.
Ward was a member for five years up until the day he died, Gattis said.
"Whenever I met him, he would always shake my hand and look me in the eye," Gattis said. "I respected that because not all kids do that."
Dozens of teens were among the mourners. They hugged each other, crying, outside the funeral home and many wore an image of Ward slung around their neck.
"It is so the memories won't die," said a teary-eyed teenager who declined to give his name but said Ward was his cousin.
The teenager was wearing a laminated image of himself and Ward when the two were toddlers.
"He was a really bright, big personality," said Caitlin Meissner, 28, who taught Ward in a poetry class at P.S. 140, the school he attended.
"It is terrible to have this happen to a student. You always want to see their life unfold," she added, describing Ward as the class joker.
Ward also loved playing basketball, said a 57-year-old man who added that his son shot hoops with Ward for years. The man, who declined to give his name, said Ward was a role model to younger kids because of his outgoing personality.
"But he certainly didn’t see himself that way," the man said.
Gattis said it was Ward's love for basketball that glued him to the Boys' Club.
"If you mentioned the word 'basketball,' he would smile," he said. "That was what really inspired him."