HARLEM — With his dying breaths, an aspiring chef told his mother and brother, "I love you" while coughing up blood after he was shot in the neck trying to break up a clash between two groups near a Rucker Park basketball tournament, family said.
"They killed my baby," his mother said choking back tears.
Two other teens were wounded and there were no immediate arrests, police said.
Jordan Barber, 18, had attended the Entertainers Basketball Classic game at the park and was standing with a group of friends outside the Polo Grounds Houses, at 2931 Frederick Douglas Blvd., about 10:45 p.m. when another group came over, witnesses and NYPD officials said.
"We said, 'Who are these boys?' It was like 25 or 30 of them," said Barber's cousin, Asia Best, 26.
Best grabbed kids who were nearby and brought them to safety as Barber tried to intervene and cool rising tempers, she said.
"He walked to the front to calm it down. He was just saying, 'Chill, chill.' Then, I heard pop, pop," Best said.
Barber took off running but a bullet pierced his neck, police and witnesses.
"I looked back and saw my cousin hit the floor. He jumped up and grabbed his neck, then he fell down to the floor," Best said.
As the shots rang out, Barber's family nearby — his mother, brother and cousin — that raced to his side.
"I was on top of him screaming, 'Jordan, stay with us! Stay strong!' He was moving his eyes. He tried to talk, but blood came ouf of his mouth. He was telling his mom, 'Help me! Help me!'" the cousin added.
"I heard shots and one of my friends said, 'He got shot!'" said Barber's 19-year-old brother, Yahtek Johnson.
"I ran over to him and said, 'Don't move!' He said, 'I love you,' and coughed up blood," Johnson said.
"He told me he loved me and that was it."
"He was on the ground. Blood was coming from his mouth. I was telling him to hang on," said his grief-stricken mom, Lashanda Holman, 34.
"I knew my baby was dead."
Barber, who lived in the housing complex, was pronounced dead at Harlem Hospital, police said.
A 19-year-old was hit in the thigh and was also brought to Harlem Hospital where he was listed in stable condition, police said.
A 17-year-old boy was hit in the abdomen but walked to Lincoln Medical Center on his own, police said.
Best, who liked cooking and design, attended the High School of Excellence and Innovation and hoped to go on to college, family said.
"He loved cooking steak and chicken and waffles. he was the type of klid who would wake up and cook for the whole house," said another cousin, Kamille Bernoff, 30.
"He wanted to be a chef. He was a great cook. He wanted to own his own restaurant," Bernoff said.
"He was a good, loving, sweet kid. He was always helpful," Barber's mom said.
"He was a sweetheart. I know people say that, but he really was," Holman said.
"He didn't deserve this. He really didn't," she added.