Shooting Victim: ‘I Didn’t Want to Die at a Young Age’

David CruzSuzanne Rozdeba

The young man who was shot in the leg at Campos Plaza has come forward to identify himself and to describe the horror of being stalked by a gunman in the early hours of Monday morning.

David Cruz, 24, told The Local that he and a friend were walking back to his apartment on East 13th Street, between Avenues B and C, shortly after midnight when he noticed “a navy blue or black car creeping,” and then saw it double parked. “We looked towards the car, and I noticed somebody jump out the car with an all-black hoodie on, covering his face,” he said.

The man quickly approached. “He started to run towards me and my friend. We ran towards East 12th Street, when he shot the first fire at me. My friend proceeded to run towards the basketball court and I proceeded to run towards the 635 East 12th Street tunnel when he shot the second fire that hit me.” The shooter wordlessly fired another two or three rounds that missed their target, said Mr. Cruz.

“When I got shot, it went in through the back of my thigh, and the bullet left the front of my thigh,” he said. “It was half an inch away from my artery and about an inch away from the main bone on my thigh.”

David CruzSuzanne Rozdeba David Cruz shows his wound.

He kept running, uncertain of the shooter’s location. “I was afraid for my kids’ lives,” said Mr. Cruz, the father of a five-year-old son and a younger daughter. “I didn’t want to die at a young age and leave them with no father. That’s the only thing that kept coming out of my mouth to my friend.”

After a store clerk helped tie up the wound, a motorist agreed to take Mr. Cruz to Beth Israel Hospital, but not before a police vehicle stopped the car and then followed behind it, he said. About 15 to 20 minutes after Mr. Cruz’s arrival at the hospital, he said, the police arrived to question him.

Mr. Cruz said police officers wanted to tie him to an earlier fight that had occurred inside of The Central Bar, shortly before a shooting near the corner of East Ninth Street and Third Avenue. “They tried to tell me I was there that night,” he told The Local. “I was not there. I don’t know what happened that night. I don’t know who was involved in what.”

By Mr. Cruz’s account, he was home all day before the shooting, tending to his daughter until about 6:30 p.m, and then hanging out with a friend. He ate dinner and then played video games until about 11:15 p.m. “I don’t look for trouble with anybody, and they’re trying to make me seem as somebody who’s looking for trouble,” he said. (Mr. Cruz is currently unemployed but described himself as a “hard-working man” who tended to a disabled father.)

“Supposedly, to their knowledge, I had friends who were there, or people who I know were there,” said Mr. Cruz. He claimed not to know who was at Central Bar that night.

When detectives later arrived at the hospital, “they said they had already seen the [fight] footage, and that it was clear from the footage I wasn’t there at all,” said Mr. Cruz. “They told me, ‘We know you’re not lying. You weren’t there.’”

Residents of Campos Plaza have voiced rumors that the dispute at The Central Bar was gang-related. Mr. Cruz said he didn’t know whether that was the case. “I’m not in a gang,” he said. “The cops automatically assume because I live in Campos Plaza that I am in a gang. Because I know those people doesn’t make me somebody bad, and doesn’t make me in a gang.”

Mr. Cruz was released from the hospital at 2 p.m yesterday, and said he had not been informed of any arrests. “All I know is I was a victim of a shooting, and to me, the police have been more, how can I say it, they’ve been looking for more reasons to interrogate me on the situation and put me somewhere that I wasn’t, rather than figuring out why I was shot,” he said.

“To the cops, we’re just people who live in the projects,” he later added. “That’s what they look at us as.”