2006-12-22 / Front Page

Arverne Man Run Over, Gunned Down In Wavecrest

Homicides, Shooting Incidents Rock Rockaway - Two Shooting Deaths, Numerous
By Howard Schwach

Arverne Man Run Over, Gunned Down In Wavecrest
Homicides, Shooting Incidents Rock Rockaway
Two Shooting Deaths, Numerous 'Shots Fired' Calls Mar Holiday Week

Police block off the streets surrounding Fernside Place in Wavecrest shortly after the shooting death of Laton Spurgeon on Tuesday. Photo by Miriam Rosenberg.
Police block off the streets surrounding Fernside Place in Wavecrest shortly after the shooting death of Laton Spurgeon on Tuesday. Photo by Miriam Rosenberg. A 25-year-old Arverne man was run over and then shot and killed as he stood outside his brother's home in Wavecrest on Tuesday, the third slaying in Rockaway in recent weeks, police say.

Laton Spurgeon, who lived at 51-11 Almeda Avenue with his girlfriend and their newborn son, died in a hail of gunfire as he left his brother's home on Fernside Place in Wavecrest at about 10:15 Tuesday morning, after reportedly first being run over by the shooter.

Published reports say that eyewitnesses saw a gunman kneel down and fire several rounds into Spurgeon after first hitting him with his car.

Spurgeon suffered gunshot wounds to both his back and his legs.

Spurgeon reportedly lived next door to Christopher Glenn, 16, a Beach Channel High School student who was killed in front of a Hammels building in late November.

Captain Brian McMahon, the commanding officer of the 101 Precinct in Far Rockaway, said at a meeting on Wednesday night that he attributes the rash of shootings to "two groups not getting along and even some past incidents that go back to 2001."

He said that there were many things that he could not discuss about the ongoing investigation, but said, "Anytime someone gets arrested, [they suspect] that somebody gave them up."

"A lot of people are working on the cases, including the commissioner's office," he added. "We fully expect a lot of these shootings and homicides to be solved."

He told the meeting that the Queens South Task Force has been reassigned to Rockaway to help out with the investigation.

Spurgeon's girlfriend told reporters that she believes that his shooting is connected to two other recent and fatal incidents, the shooting of Glenn and the December 15 shooting of 18-year-old Cedric Smalls in front of 81-03 Beach Channel Drive, a building in the Hammel Houses complex.

"He didn't have anything to do with Small's death but that's why they killed him," Donayle Crumpton, Spurgeon's girlfriend, told the New York Post. "I don't know the root of the problem, but it's been going on for years and it needs to stop."

The latest shooting spurred school officials to cancel Tuesday night's home basketball game between Beach Channel High School and Cardozo High School.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education told The Wave that the game was cancelled at the request of the police department.

"They don't want to have a big event with a lot of kids hanging around until things calm down," the DOE spokesperson said. "The decision was made after discussions with the Region Five office and the police that it would be better to cancel the game."

Police spread a dragnet for a number of automobiles thought to be connected with Spurgeon's shooting death, a Chevrolet Malibu and a maroon Dodge Durango with New Jersey plates.

In addition to the three homicides, there have been a number of other shooting incidents in which numerous calls were made to report multiple shots being fired. In one of the incidents, gunfire was reported on December 16 nearby where Smalls was shot the night before. In another incident, at least a dozen shots were fired at Beach 86 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard at about 4:57 p.m. on Monday. Police found two spent rounds in an auto parked in front of 86-14 Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

Eyewitnesses told The Wave that several teenagers were seen running towards the Hammel Houses complex and others were seen heading for the nearby subway station shortly after the shots were heard, but no arrests were made.

Police sources say that the shooters got into a white vehicle and fled towards the Rockaway Freeway. Despite an extensive search, no suspects were found from that shooting.

On Wednesday evening, seven shots were fired at police in front of 443 Beach 58 Street. The police didn't return fire.

City Councilman James Sanders Jr. told The Wave that he and his staff were working on a comprehensive plan to address youth violence on the peninsula. He plans to hold a closed-door meeting with a number of local political and city officials to codify the plan. He also said he believes the shootings are all related to gang activity at the Hammel Houses.

While he declined to go into the specifics of his proposals, he did say that the plan would include such areas as the creation of jobs, leadership and role models, education and the training of youth coordinators.

"We can no longer tolerate this wanton violence in our communities," Sanders said. "This is an extremely serious problem with complex roots. It's not going to go away overnight."

The NYPD investigation continued at press time, but there had been no arrests. Officers from many special units from the Patrol Borough Queens South Command were active on the peninsula, including the Warrant Squad, the Task Force and others.

Additional Reporting

By Miriam Rosenberg

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When I was growing up in Far Rockaway, disagreements were settled with fisticuffs or wrestling matches. I can remember disliking my opponent enough to cause severe pain, but never did it enter my mind to kill him.

It was as much about pride then as it is now. I never liked it when I got the worst of it, but I was never dishonered or disrespected by my friends for having lost. On the contrary, I was respected for having had the guts to stand up to an adversary. It was clearly understood that such an action took courage. Cuts and bruises soon healed; one's dignity remained unthreatened.
Today, these young thugs think that by killing their opponent, they are showing everybody else they're tough. They had the guts to take a life, without having had a hair harmed on their "pretty little heads." That's not courage. That's cowardice, carelessness, senselessness and stupidity; a permanent solution to a temporary problem. In a cowardly effort to avoid temporarily pain, they opt for prison, death or simply a lifetime of ostracism from civilized society. When it's their turn to stand before a loaded gun held by another coward, I wonder, will they flinch?

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