Shots fired at park jar neighbors

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Two shots fired during a softball game at Juniper Valley Park last week caused no injuries but left residents with nagging concerns about whether the playgrounds and fields are still safe for their families.

The gunfire came on the heels of a heated altercation between the gunman and a 43-year-old bystander around 7:30 p.m. Aug. 7, police said.

After arguing with the unidentified man, the gunman displayed a pistol in his waistband, which he then pulled out and pointed at the other man, police said.

But he raised the gun into the air before firing two shots while standing along Juniper Boulevard South and 77th Place, police said. The gunman then fled on a red mountain bike with one red tire and one black tire, riding down 63rd Avenue towards Woodhaven Boulevard, police said.

The suspect was described as a white male Hispanic, about 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, with short brown hair.

His weapon was a black semiautomatic pistol, police said.

He had been wearing a blue tank top with the number 44 on his back, according to a release issued by the Juniper Park Civic Association.

The gunman began arguing with players and other spectators participating in a softball game on Field 4 in the park, civic officers said, but the altercation moved towards the children’s playground before the shots rang out.

“I think it’s horrible, I think it’s scary,” said Tiffany Elliott, a mother of two and officer in the Juniper Park Civic Association. “I’m sure there were still people with kids in the park.”

Elliott said she will no longer bring her children to the playground in the upper part of the park — near where the shooting occurred — while groups of teenagers are congregating there in the afternoon.

“It makes me look at people a lot closer now, which isn’t exactly relaxing,” she said. “As far as not going to Juniper Park, it doesn’t really change anything because that can really happen in any park.”

Robert Holden, president of the civic association, responded to the gunfire by renewing his call for additional officers to be assigned to the 104th Precinct, which covers Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale and Ridgewood.

The civic has waged a vocal campaign in recent months to have more officers assigned to the precinct, which currently has 136 officers, the lowest total in over 30 years, Holden said.

“Juniper Valley Park is a beautiful park and Middle Village is a solid middle class neighborhood, and we will not tolerate inadequate and substandard police protection in the community,” Holden said in the release.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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