Police from the 40th Precinct collect evidence near 138 St. following a Jan. 9 fracas.

Cop, suspect shot in Mott Haven melee

An after-hours altercation that spilled onto the streets from a Port Morris social club led to the wounding of an officer and six men involved in the fight on Jan. 9.

Police from the 40th Precinct collect evidence near 138 St. following a Jan. 9 fracas.
Photo by Kara Chin. Police from the 40th Precinct collect evidence near 138 St. following a Jan. 9 fracas.

An altercation that spilled outside from a Port Morris social club led to the wounding of a police officer from the 40th Precinct and six men involved in the fight in the wee hours on Jan. 9.

Officer Sherrod Stuart, 25, was shot in the right ankle at around 2:10 a.m. as he and other officers from the precinct’s anti-crime unit were intervening in a brawl that broke out during an illegally organized party at the Sanctuary Party Hall near 137 St. and Third Ave., according to the NYPD.

The shooting took place in front of 180 Lincoln Ave., where Stuart and his partner were on plain clothes patrol responding to several 911 calls that reported “a large fight in the street with guns and bats and knives at 2505 Third Avenue,” according to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, who spoke at a press conference at Lincoln Hospital where Officer Stuart was being treated.

“We have since determined that there was a very large ‘Jump-Up’ party with anywhere from 100 to 200 people at that location,” he said. “During the event, a significant fight broke out in the establishment and it spilled into the street.”

Later in the morning, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and anti-violence advocates held another press conference near the station house on 138th St.

“An establishment like this one should be a place where you go and party,” Diaz said. “It should not be a death trap of blood and carnage.”

A prominent activist who works on anti-crime initiatives said the informally-arranged jump-up parties that emerge through social media are often a recipe for violence.

“Unfortunately if the word gets out and rivals come, this is what you get: an outcome of stupidity,” said Tony Herbert, president of Advocates without Borders, an network comprised of grassroots organizations. “It’s not necessarily a gang thing. Next thing you know, they’re out there trying to air out their differences while a bunch of innocent people are there trying to have fun.”

“There is no reason for anyone to take a weapon to a party,” he said, adding groups like his are pushing for a 10-year mandatory sentence for illegal possession of firearms charges. “It’s the illegal guns that are the problem in our community. We need to be tougher on gun laws.”

Several of the men involved in the fight suffered stab wounds, according to the NYPD.

The officers encountered a suspect at the scene and went after him, when the suspect shot Stuart in the right ankle, police officials say. He returned gunfire, striking the suspect four times. At least four firearms have been recovered so far during searches of the area around 137th Street and inside the club.

The suspect was also taken to Lincoln Hospital, and listed in serious condition. A preliminary investigation identified him as Christopher Rice, 19. Rice has a criminal history including five prior arrests, including one for farebeating a day before the shooting. He had been released from court at 11 p.m. on Dec. 8, just three hours before the incident.

Five additional stabbing victims were taken to local hospitals after the altercation.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was alongside Bratton at the Lincoln Hospital press conference, said NYPD officers had “handled this situation, diffused this situation, got the guns.”

In a written statement, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said, “I strongly urge anyone with information about this morning’s shooting to call crime stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.”

A lifelong resident said that the violent incident is the exception rather than the rule.

“It’s a really good neighborhood,” said JOJO Gomez, 19, who grew up in the area and lives a block away from the scene of the crime. “This community is family-oriented. We all grew up together. There’s a lot of love here. There are always fights when different people come from different places.”

A more recent arrival to the neighborhood agreed the incident is an anomaly.

“I think it’s very safe. I think this is an exception,” said Greg McManus, 61, who moved to Mott Haven three months ago. “I looked at the statistics before I moved here. There’s very little crime.”