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Lower East Side Teenager Shot to Death

By  Jess Wisloski and Jesse Lent | January 5, 2013 9:59am | Updated on January 6, 2013 10:01am

LOWER EAST SIDE — A 16-year-old teenager was found shot in the chest Friday night and later declared dead at the hospital, police said.

Raphael Ward, 16, who lived in the Baruch Houses, was found near Rivington Street and Columbia Street at 9:10 p.m. by police responding to a 911 call about a male shot, cops said.

Ward was found outside a convenience store with a gunshot wound in his chest, police and witnesses said.

The teen was rushed to Beth Israel Hospital but declared dead on arrival. Police said an investigation was ongoing.

"He was a good kid. He went to school. He wasn't a kid worried about getting into trouble. He played basketball," said Ward's uncle, Luis Morales, 30. "It's a tragedy."

Witnesses and friends said Ward had been hanging out Friday with friends who had been in a fight against rivals from a different housing project a few days before.

Nicholas Ramos, 18, said he and some friends were chased into a pizza shop by the rival group while Ward ran into a bodega on the corner of Rivington and Columbia streets, where he hid out for a few minutes.

"They chased us inside the stores. Then he came back out for a second and that's when he got shot," said Ramos, who had been inside the pizzarea. 

A cashier at the Tearedhan Convenience Store declined to comment.

Morales said heard on the street that the bullet wasn't meant for his nephew. "It was somebody he was around, and he happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Relatives at the door of Ward's apartment on Saturday declined to comment about the death, and a note posted on the outer door of the 12th-floor unit stated "[sic] in this time of great sorrow, the family like some private time alone."

A neighbor, Tina Chin, 34, who has known the family for 25 years, said everyone was upset, especially Ward's mother.

"She's numb," said Chin. "He was a good kid. He played baseball. He was loved by many. His principal came to the emergency room last night...he was destroyed. He couldn't believe it," she said.

She said he rarely got into fights, and the incident surprised her. "It's a tragedy. It was horrible," she said. "I'm in a haze."

Tajanae Brown, 15, who played basketball with the victim, said all of Ward's friends of Facebook were shocked.

"He was a good person," she said. "I was surprised because he wouldn't really be out there [on the corner]...the whole Facebook was talking about it." Some of her Facebook friends were blaming a nearby gang for the shooting, she said.

Ward went by the nickname "Sadonte," she said, but she didn't know if he was in a gang, though he did have friends who were, she said.

"He was tall. He was funny. Everybody knew about him, but he wasn't a bad kid," she added.

The Baruch Houses is one of several NYCHA complexes on the Lower East Side that came under scrunity last year for having lax security and for being among the half of all public housing buildings that lack security cameras.

After a police officer, Brian Groves, was shot in the chest July 5 at Seward Park Extention, several elected officials and resident groups made a call to improve security measures.

On Saturday night Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, whose "thoughts and prayers" were with Ward's family, said he'd allocated funds for cameras at the Baruch Houses in 2012, but there had been delays.

"...Only initial steps have been taken to install them. In the coming days I will be reaching out to NYCHA to expedite the installation of these cameras, which must no longer be delayed," Stringer said in a release.

State Senator Daniel Squadron, whose district includes the houses, echoed his remorse and urged for better gun control.

"No parent should ever have to face the unspeakable tragedy of losing a child," he said in a statement. "From stronger gun laws to improved safety at NYCHA developments, we are reminded far too often that the time to act is now."