Basketball court murder shocks Cambria Heights

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More than a week after Christopher Mitchell was shot on a Cambria Heights basketball court, Rachelle Narcisse is still reeling from the murder of the young man she called her brother.

Mitchell, 20, whom everybody called Big Chris because of his girth, was shot and killed on a clear July evening after heading to the park when he heard four men were there looking for him.

“We were at Little Chris’s house playing cards when somebody came and told him the guys were in the park,” Narcisse said, referring to another friends of theirs. “He rode over to the park and before he could get off his bike, they shot him once in the throat and once in the chest.”

Police said Mitchell was shot in the chest July 30 around 9 p.m. in the Fred Cabell Park, formerly the Cambria Heights Park, at 219th Street and Francis Lewis Boulevard, but did not mention a throat wound. He was taken to Franklin General Hospital where he died, police said. There were no arrests and the investigation was ongoing.

According to Police Department statistics, there have been seven murders within the confines of the 105th Precinct since Jan. 1, 2002, which is two more than last year for the same time period.

Even though Mitchell no longer lived in Cambria Heights, he often returned to his old neighborhood to visit friends. His family moved to Valley Stream, L.I. about four years ago for a better life.

Narcisse said Mitchell and the four men whom she believes shot him had a history that went back about three years. Mitchell went out with a girl who was dating one of the four, she said.

Mitchell bumped into two of the four last week in the park, she said, but they ran away because they did not want to fight hand-to-hand, without any weapons.

“The guys who shot Chris were involved in a gang and it was retaliation,” she said. “Everybody knows who did it.”

The shooting was the first violent crime to take place in the park, which has a sprinkler, swings, two jungle gyms, two basketball courts and two baseball fields, since a man murdered his wife a few years ago.

On an afternoon two days after Mitchell was murdered, a 15-year-old who did not want to give his name said he saw Mitchell having an argument with some people and then heard “bop, bop” and saw Mitchell on the ground. He said as he was running for cover he heard “bop, bop” again and saw Mitchell get up before collapsing.

State Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village), who lives a few blocks from the park, said she and her husband were sitting outside when they heard the shots.

“I am devastated,” she said about the shooting. “I have lived here for 33 years and nothing like that ever happened before in that park. It is very painful for me. It is a blessing that nobody else was hurt.”

A recent graduate of Thomas Edison High School in Jamaica, Mitchell was planning to attend Nassau Community College in the fall and study computers. In the meantime, he had a number of jobs from being an Easter bunny at the mall to working on a Mr. Softee truck to scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins.

“He loved his family,” Narcisse said. “He had four sisters and would fight for any girl in need.”

She described her best friend, who loved basketball, poetry and singing rhythm and blues, as an extremely loving man who would do anything to make you feel better when you were sad.

“He tried to sing rhythm and blues all of the time,” Narcisse said. “He was all right — no Stevie Wonder — but tried real hard. It did not have to end like that.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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