20-Year-Old Tourist Killed by Stray Bullet in Brooklyn


Ethan Williams arrived in New York last week to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional skateboarder, a goal that he had long envisioned would bring him to the city. But days later, he became another victim of a wave of deadly gun violence that has shaken the city when a stray bullet struck him in the chest outside his Airbnb apartment in Brooklyn.

Mr. Williams, 20, was sitting with a group of friends outside the Bushwick home on Eldert Street at around 2:30 a.m. Saturday when six shots rang out, according to Blaine Cromley, 19, a friend who made the trip with him from Indianapolis last week.

The group ran indoors when the shots were fired, and Mr. Cromley, who was in the apartment at the time, said he went outside when they realized Mr. Williams had not come in.

“He was stumbling, running up the stairs after he got shot, then he was just laying on the top of the stairs,” said Mr. Cromley. “I sprinted down and saw the blood. I felt his chest and there was just nothing. He wasn’t alive.”

Mr. Cromley said police officers arrived just seconds after he found Mr. Williams on the stairs. The New York Police Department said on Sunday that emergency medical workers took Mr. Williams to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, where he was pronounced dead.

A spokeswoman for the department said the investigation was in its “infant stages” and that the authorities had not yet found information about potential perpetrators. Mr. Williams’s parents did not respond to messages seeking comment on Sunday, but told The New York Post that their son had come to New York to film skateboarding videos.

Mr. Williams’s death comes amid a wave of gun violence that has shaken New York just as the city faces an uncertain future tied to an array of challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant economic collapse.

There have been more than 370 homicides in New York City so far this year, according to police department statistics. Like Mr. Williams, some other victims appeared to have been unintended targets.

Among them have been Bertha Arriaga, a mother of three, who was shot in the neck by a stray bullet that burst through her bedroom window when she was at home with her children in Jackson Heights, Queens.

In August, Davell Gardner Jr., a 22-month-old, was fatally shot as he sat in his stroller in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Mr. Williams was not the only victim of violence in the city over the weekend. The police are also investigating the death of a Long Island woman after a man was seen dumping her body near the Horace Harding Expressway in Queens on Friday. The victim, Vanessa Pierre, 29, had bruise marks on her neck that may suggest she was strangled, police officials said.

Mr. Williams and his friends had been enjoying a peaceful night on the stoop before the shooting began, Mr. Cromley said.

The group, which had traveled together from Indiana last Thursday, was smoking cigarettes and quietly chatting. They believed they were alone on the block, but then a burst of gunfire echoed down the empty street, Mr. Cromley said.

“We didn’t see anyone on the block or anything,” he said. “We didn’t interact with anyone on the block. We weren’t being loud.”

Mr. Cromley said he and Mr. Williams had ambitions to move to New York next year to explore careers as professional skateboarders, with the goal of one day becoming affiliated with a skateboarding brand. Brooklyn seemed like the center of the action.

“The scene is bigger here than it is in Indiana,” he said. “There’s a bunch of skate spots everywhere and a lot of skate brands are based out here so it is a really good place to try to progress with skating. That’s our life.”

The friends saved up money for the trip and rented the Airbnb in Bushwick to get a feel for the city. Mr. Cromley said he and Mr. Williams had been talking about moving to New York since they were in junior high school. For Mr. Williams, even just waking up in Brooklyn had been a thrill, Mr. Cromley said.

“Being in New York was his dream,” said Mr. Crowley. “Just that we even got here, I know he is happy.”

Ashley Southall contributed reporting.


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