NYPD arrests dozens after gang runs amok in Times Square, Herald Square

BY Sarah Armaghan, Barry Paddock and Rocco Parascandola (DAILY NEWS)
April 5th 2010

Fifty-four people were arrested Monday morning after hundreds of young thugs rampaged through Times Square and Herald Square in what cops say has become a new Easter night tradition of Midtown mayhem.

Four people were shot – a man and woman in Times Square and two women outside of Macy’s. They were taken to Bellevue Hospital with relatively minor injuries.

The overnight melee resurrected old urban specters, with Mayor Bloomberg calling it “wilding” and Manhattan Boro President Scott Stringer warning of “reliving the bad old days of the 1970s.”

Police said the three wounded women were innocent bystanders caught amid surging groups of gangbangers, most of whom had been to the annual car show at the Javits Center.

“It was pretty crazy,” said a witness to the Herald Square gunplay, who did not want to give his name.

“It was like ‘pop,’ real loud – then silence. Then another ‘Pop, pop, pop, pop.’ Everyone started running down the street, screaming, ‘They’re shooting, they’re shooting!'”

Cops shut down some of New York City’s most famous streets and climbed into the iconic Macy’s awning, looking for stashed weapons.

“The mayhem in Midtown appears to be a bunch of gang members wilding,” said Mayor Bloomberg.

“There’s a bunch of people that think it’s cute to go out and to run around and to cause chaos,” he said.

“This is a bunch of people who shouldn’t be on the street if they are going to behave this way, and we’re not going to stand for it.”

Easter night, when it falls during the car show, has brought violent clashes to Midtown for the last half-dozen years, terrifying tourists and business owners.

The NYPD had beefed up patrols in preparation. “It’s something we watch over and we prepare for it in advance,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

Until this year, the most serious clashes were in 2006 and 2007, when some businesses were told to close for their own safety and a handful of stabbings were reported.

“This city is going to hell. People shouldn’t have to worry about being shot, especially in Midtown,” said a fuming Tena Hemingway, 23, of Brooklyn, whose 19-year-old sister, Iasia Manson, was shot in the elbow outside Macy’s.

“She was just walking around with a group of friends celebrating Easter,” Hemingway said. “They were headed toward the train to go home, when a group of guys just came up on them and started acting a fool and started yelling – and that’s when the shots went off.”

Witnesses described large groups of young men swaggering through the streets, periodically breaking into a run when someone pulled a gun.

The first shooting took place at 12:10 a.m. outside the New York Sports Club on W. 41st St., where Chris Pleasant, 21, was shot in the ankle.

NYPD shut down 42nd and 41st Sts. between Seventh and Eighth Aves., and shuttered some of the busy Times Square subway entrances.

The second shooting came 20 minutes later at W. 51st St. and Seventh Ave., when a 21-year-old woman was grazed in the face with a BB pellet.

About two hours later, gunfire erupted in Herald Square, when Manson was hit in the elbow and an 18-year-old girl was shot in the leg.

Cops shut down 34th St. from Seventh to Fifth Aves. and began stopping dozen of young people, searching, questioning and arresting them.

Of the 54 taken into custody, nine were juveniles. The arrests were largely for disorderly conduct and not tied directly to any of the shootings.

“I’ve never seen stuff like this go on here, not in Times Square,” said Sonny Imtiaz, 24, of Bay Ridge, who came to ride motorcycles in Manhattan with a friend because it was such a balmy night.

“We thought we’d head to Times Square and that’s when we started seeing all these groups of people everywhere.

“We were stopped at a red light when these two groups started fighting, yelling and throwing glass bottles at each other, hitting them in the head.

“There must have been like 30 to 40 people in there. The cops showed up and everyone scattered, everyone just started running.”

Imtiaz faulted the police for not breaking up the gangs earlier.

“I think the cops could have handled it all better,” he said. “They should have been able to control these crowds more, but they were just standing there as this all went on.”

Bloomberg said, “We then loaded the area up with police, but they can’t be everywhere.”

Stringer declared “the Crossroads of the World became ground zero for the citywide spike in crime” and warned Albany against big funding cuts for New York.

“If there was ever a prime example that we need more resources to combat crime, this is it,” he said. “The city cannot withstand the draconian cuts proposed by the state to our budget.”

It was the second time in recent months that gunfire has marred the cleaned-up Times Square. In December, a street hustler opened fire with a machine pistol before cops shot him dead. Miraculously, he was the only casualty.

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