It is believed to be a gang shootout that killed an innocent young man.
Family and friends of the man killed at the late-night barbecue spoke out on Tuesday morning as police continued to search for the gunmen.
College basketball star Darius Lee, 21, graduated in 2018 from St. Raymond High School in the Bronx. He was due to graduate from Houston Baptist University next year.
Lee made his family, friends, coaches and teammates proud, and they honored him Monday night in Harlem and Houston.
St. Raymond High School released a statement on the former student’s passing in an Instagram post:
“We are heartbroken and devastated to learn of the senseless passing of Darius Lee, Class of 2018. Our prayers and condolences go out to his family at this time, and we pray for his eternal rest with our Lord. In addition to to be a tremendous star basketball player, he was a phenomenal human being, and a young man living such a positive life, succeeding in school, on the court and in life.These senseless acts of violence must stop…such tragedy.”
He was fatally shot after gunfire erupted at a barbecue along Harlem River Road around 12:30 p.m. Monday.
Nine people were shot dead.
Seven men and two women between the ages of 21 and 42 were beaten in a park along the East River in the area of Fifth Avenue and East 139th Street.
Two of those who were shot had gang ties and at least one was possibly a shooter.
Very few surveillance videos were recovered due to the location of the shots, in front of an overpass across the highway.
WATCH: Where the shots rang out and where the victims fled
He was specifically chosen, according to the organizer’s Instagram post, to evade the police.
“He’s an innocent child,” Lee’s sister Tiara Weaver said. “He decided to stay out one day, and that’s what’s happening.”
“He was a pure soul. So kind,” said his cousin Thailyn Lee. “He wasn’t on the streets or anything. He was all about basketball. He didn’t deserve any of this.”
Police recovered a weapon at the scene.
Detectives believe at least three guns were used to fire dozens of shots.
They are still trying to figure out how much.
So far there have been no arrests and they are asking for the public’s help.
Mayor Eric Adams and the police commissioner are expected to provide another update Tuesday afternoon.
Following the shooting, Lee’s trainer expressed his grief and confusion over his star’s untimely murder.
“Darius was a remarkable young man who loved the Lord, his mother, his family, his teammates, his friends and his entire HBU family,” HBU men’s basketball head coach Ron Cottrell wrote in a statement. “We are in shock and cannot understand this news.”
Despite the violent circumstances of Lee’s death, Cottrell added that his student-athlete left a positive legacy.
“As good basketball player as he was, he was an even better person. I can’t even think about basketball right now. I can only think of Darius’ light during his short stay on ground. He was a joy coach and we loved him so much,” Cottrell wrote.
HBU athletic director Steve Moniaci not only expressed his sadness at losing Lee, but also called out another act of gun violence.
“He was a very good young man who had a very bright future ahead of him on and off the pitch. This is unfortunately, yet another example of the senseless gun violence that seems to be plaguing our country at this time and we are all praying for this to end,” Moniaci wrote in a statement.
Lee’s impact on the pitch was also too hard to ignore.
Last season, he was an All-Southland Conference second-team selection after leading the Houston Baptist in scoring and rebounding. He was also one of the best defenders in the nation, finishing sixth in the nation in steals per game.
Darius’ father, Eric Lee, says his son was once chubby and not a kid you would expect to become a star athlete.
But at 21, Lee had won one basketball scholarship after another and was a star in college. He was not a young adult who one would expect to be a victim of gun violence.
Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). You can also submit tips by visiting the CrimeStoppers website at crimestoppers.nypdonline.org or by messaging @NYPDTips on Twitter.
As of June 20, there have been 277 mass shootings in the United States this year, according to Gun Violence Archive.
There were 692 mass shootings in 2021, 611 in 2020 and 417 in 2019.
Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as a shooting with four or more people injured or killed, not including the perpetrator.
Sister station KTRK in Houston contributed to this report
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