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Two NYC men shot dead in hail of bullets on Queens restaurant, nightlife street

New York Daily News 4/1/2023 Nicholas Williams, Thomas Tracy, New York Daily News

Two men died when bullets flew on an Astoria, Queens restaurant row teeming with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean eateries and nightspots, police said Saturday.

At least 14 gunshots were recorded by the NYPD’s Shot Spotter detection system near the corner of Steinway St. and Astoria Blvd. at about 10:30 p.m. Friday, cops said.

Responding officers found 22-year-old Xavier Roberts sprawled out on the ground suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to his stomach and legs, police said.

A second mortally wounded man, identified as 21-year-old Jaheim Hamilton, was found a block away. He had been shot in the torso, cops said.

The two men, who are both from the Bronx, were rushed to Elmhurst Hospital, but neither could be saved.

Roberts and Hamilton were walking down Steinway St. with Roberts’ brother when a gunman started blasting away at them, cops were told.

“I heard the gunshots. It was like back-to-back,” said Dylan Zabiski, who heard the shooting from his nearby home. “It was Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!”

Roberts’ brother told police that the shooter came up from behind, and that he didn’t get a good look at him.

Everyone scattered. Roberts’ brother wasn’t hit. Witnesses saw two men run to an awaiting black Jeep Cherokee, which peeled off, according to police sources.

“And then, after that, you heard yelling and screaming,” said Zabiski, 38.

Zabiski stepped outside and saw someone performing CPR on one of the victims.

“They didn’t look good,” he said of the victim. “There was blood on the ground. They brought the guy over (to the ambulance) and then his friend .... His friend was screaming and hysterical.”

No arrests had been made by later Saturday.

“I was there,” Roberts’ brother told the Daily News at the family’s home in the Fordham section of the Bronx. His grief-stricken mother was in the apartment, weeping hysterically.

“My brother was a role model. My brother was a hero,” he said. “Any enemies he had was through envy. He had a heart that was sometimes bigger than the world we live in.”

Cops were looking into the victims’ histories for clues into their deaths. While police believe the two men were targeted, investigators were still trying to find out why, a police source said.

Roberts doesn’t have a criminal record, but was wanted for questioning in two shootings that occurred in 2019 and 2020, according to a police source with knowledge of the case. Hamilton had been arrested once, but for a minor crime.

Investigators were scouring Steinway St. for surveillance footage that can help them identify the shooter.

Area residents say nightlife in their neighborhood has gotten rough, and blamed one spot in particular.

“It is the main hub of where all this crime is happening .... They come outside. They stab each other,” said Zabiski. “This is every Friday night. There’s always fighting going on right on Steinway and Astoria Boulevard.”

Roberts and Hamilton were the second and third people to be gunned down in Astoria in the past week, police said.

On Monday, Staten Island resident Troy Evans, 36, was fatally shot in the stomach following a clash at the Astoria Houses, which is a mile and a half from the scene of the Friday night homicides.

Until this week, no homicides had been investigated by Astoria cops all year, according to NYPD statistics. The NYPD’s 114th Precinct, which covers Astoria, Woodside and Jackson Heights, has very little crime, with about 40 felony crimes reported to police a week.

The precinct has seen a 5% jump in robberies, to 57 so far in 2023 compared to 54 during the same period of 2022, cops said.

With Emma Seiwell and Kerry Burke

©2023 New York Daily News. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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