2008-08-22 / Front Page

Cruz Charged In Accidental Murder

Playfully Pointed Gun, Pulled Trigger, Twice
By Howard Schwach

A Rockaway teen has been charged with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with evidence in connection with the accidental shooting of his cousin on August 13, prosecutors say.

According to a spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Felix Cruz, 18, was showing his unlicensed .25-caliber handgun to his cousin, Veronica Cruz, who was vacationing in New York from her Massachusetts home.

Prosecutors say he playfully aimed the handgun at his 18-year-old cousin at about 8:20 p.m. at the family's 22- 20 Cornaga Avenue apartment and pulled the trigger.

The gun clicked and Cruz pulled the trigger once again, safe in his knowl- edge that he had removed the magazine from the gun.

There was a bullet in the chamber, however, police sources say, and Veronica was shot in the head and died instantly.

"It was an accident," said Melissa Cruz, Veronica's younger sister. "He was crying and saying 'I'm sorry! Don't leave me.' "

Brown, acknowledging that the shooting was accidental, pointed to illegal guns as the culprit.

"Illegal firearms pose a serious and deadly threat to public safety," he said. "In this case, the defendant is accused of playing with a loaded weapon and costing his young cousin her life. As a result of his alleged reckless actions, her grieving family must now face the difficult and heartbreaking chore of adjusting to a life empty of her presence."

According to court papers, Cruz admitted to detectives that he knew that either the gun or the magazine contained a bullet. He also admitted that he threw the weapon out of the apartment window after the shooting, in an attempt to conceal it from police.

Crime scene investigators found the gun on the ground outside the apartment windows early the next morning, however.

Cruz faces 15 years in prison if convicted of the top counts of the indictment, a spokesperson for Brown said this week.

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