2008-08-15 / Front Page

Visiting Teen Dies In 'Gun Accident'

By Howard Schwach. With additional reporting by Miriam Rosenberg

With additional reporting by Miriam Rosenberg

A Massachusetts teen visiting relatives in Far Rockaway was shot dead Wednesday night in what police officials speculate was an accidental shooting.

Workers from the office of the chief medical examiner load Cruz's body into a van for transport to the morgue.
Relatives say that Veronica Cruz, 18, who once lived in Rockaway, but had moved to the Boston area while she was in elementary school, was visiting her cousin, Felix Cruz, 18, at the 22-20 Corn- aga Avenue second floor apartment where Felix lived with his mother, May Cruz.

Relatives told reporters that she had recently graduated from high school and had come to Rockaway to see her family and her old neighborhood about two weeks ago, prior to returning to Massachusetts to begin college.

Felix Cruz was reportedly waiting to join the U.S. Army in September. Neighbors expressed dismay to a Wave reporter at the scene, saying that they were "surprised that there would be a gun in the apartment," because the family was "very tight-knit" and were opposed to the violence in the community.

Several said that they knew Cruz well and were sure that it was some sort of accident.

While details about the shooting remain sketchy, and police say that the investigation is in its early stages, officials' speculation centers on the possibility that Cruz was either cleaning his illegal weapon or showing it to Veronica at about 8:18 p.m. on August 13, when it went off, hitting the teen in the forehead, killing her instantly.

Police from the 101 Precinct responding to a call of "shots fired" found the teen dead on the floor. While no gun was found in the apartment, crime scene officers reportedly found a weapon outside the building, on the ground under the window of the Cruz apartment.

Cruz was arrested and taken to the precinct house, where he was charged with manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent homicide, criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with physical evidence.

A spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said that Cruz will probably be arraigned late Thursday afternoon or Friday morning on those charges.

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