Hidden Communal Guns Are More Common
Shanell Crute and her boyfriend were walking toward East 163rd Street in the Bronx to buy marijuana that night. With two blocks to go, they stopped when a group of five guys called out to her. The men had been drinking and smoking.
Ms. Crute’s nickname was Sweetz because she was quite friendly, but that night, Sept. 30, 2010, she gave as good as she got for the last minutes of her 26-year-long life.
“She says, ‘I might know these guys,’ ” said Lt. James Ruane of the 44th Precinct detective squad. “She gets into a bit of an argument with them when she figures out she doesn’t know these guys. Somebody said, ‘Get the Waka Flocka.’ ”
Two men broke off, crossed East 161st Street, entered the lobby of an apartment building, approached the bank of 207 mailboxes and opened one.
Waka Flocka is the name of a rapper. But to these men, the phrase described something else.
The community gun.
Hidden and shared by a small group of people who use them when needed, and are always sure to return them, such guns appear to be rising in number in New York, according to the police. It is unclear why. The economy? Times are tough — not everyone can afford a gun. “The gangs are younger, and their resources are less,” said Ed Talty, an assistant district attorney in the Bronx.
Or perhaps it’s not that there are more communal guns, but rather, that they are easier to identify through forensic science.
“We get a lot more ballistic matches than we ever have before,” Lieutenant Ruane said. “It’s amazing. You go, how the hell did that match up to that shooting? It’s a different command, a different borough, Brooklyn or something.”
The two men who opened the Bronx mailbox may have been momentarily surprised by what they found inside — nothing. But they simply went to another hiding spot in the building, in a bag under the stairs, the police said. The building was routinely referred to as “Vietnam,” a name coined during more violent times in the 1980s.
There was the gun.
The two men emerged from the apartments on East 161st Street, and one of them, Solomon Corbett, 23, raised the gun and ended the argument with Ms. Crute by shooting her in the head and chest, the police said. He later told the police that he felt threatened by her boyfriend and intended to shoot him, but missed. That he hit her nine times seems to have weakened his case for self-defense.