HARLEM — A 23-year-old guest at a West 120th Street bed and breakfast was shot and killed early Thursday after a heated fight with an acquaintance, police said.
The victim checked into the Harlem Bed and Breakfast Wednesday night with a man he knew and two unidentified women, sources said.
At some point the men exchanged words and, shortly after midnight, gunfire rang out in the lodging, sources added.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Thursday that the victim was part of group visiting from Virginia. They were having a party at the B&B when a dispute broke out that escalated into the shooting, Kelly said. He said the victim was shot in the back in a bedroom at the B&B. Kelly said police were pursuing "significant leads" in the case.
No one has been arrested.
"It was loud enough to wake me up," said Diane Graft, who was visiting with her daughter from Fairfax, Va. "It sounded like a bunch of people. There was a lot of cursing."
The victim was rushed to Harlem Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.
The suspected gunman and both women — including a woman dressed in white — fled the scene, sources said.
It was unclear how the men, both of whom sources said have criminal records, knew each other.
The B&B, located in a brownstone at 54 W. 120th St., across from Marcus Garvey Park, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Syderia Chresfield, president of the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association, said the district is a popular place for bed and breakfasts. With some brownstones vacant due to the economic decline, she said, some owners have converted them into "short-stay" residences where guests stay for a few weeks or months.
The businesses are good for the neighborhood, Chresfield said.
"The guests spend money in Harlem and occupy the restaurants, so we need them," Chesterfield said. "We need tourism any way we can get it.
"They've been so positive for the neighborhood that we've included them on our house tour," she added. "It's a win-win for them to be in the neighborhood."
Residents said the bed and breakfasts in the area rarely felt the crime from the neighboring blocks. Neighbors said poet Maya Angelou lives a few doors down from the B&B.
"It's a beautiful block. It's a safe neighborhood with a lot of celebrities," said Carmine Calzonetti, 65, who lives on the block. "It's a shock. It's a surprise. It's usually quiet. It's very confusing."
Additional reporting by Alan Neuhauser and Dan Rivoli.