By Pervaiz Shallwani, Mark Morales, Jason Hanna and Brynn Gingras, CNN
A 20-year-old woman pushing a baby in a stroller was shot in the head at close range and killed Wednesday night on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, police said — a brazen crime that comes amid a push to curb gun violence in New York City and heightened attention to its scourge nationwide.
Authorities believe the victim and the shooter knew each other, calling it a domestic incident, and they’ve identified a person of interest they want to speak with, a senior law enforcement official said. The 3-month-old was not harmed, police said.
The woman is believed to be the child’s mother, several law enforcement officials told CNN. Authorities determined she was temporarily living in a building several blocks away, which is a women’s shelter, one of the officials said.
The assailant approached the woman as she pushed the stroller and shot her once in the head around 8:20 p.m. near the intersection of East 95th Street and Lexington Avenue, police said. The shooter, described as a male wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black sweatpants, left on foot along 95th Street, police said.
“A woman is pushing a baby carriage down the block and is shot in point-blank range. It shows just how this national problem is impacting families,” New York Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference Wednesday night, eventually referring to “the oversaturation of guns, and dangerous people that repeatedly leave our criminal justice system.”
“It doesn’t matter if you are on the Upper East Side or East New York, Brooklyn,” he said.
Officials “strongly believe it was not a random shooting” and “the victim was targeted,” the mayor added Thursday morning.
Investigators learned the child’s age and details about the woman from domestic incident reports on which her name appears, the official said. The reports include her name, those listed as former boyfriends and the name of a second child who was not with her at the time of the shooting, one official said.
Police on Thursday identified the woman as Azsia Johnson, who was from Staten Island.
No one has been arrested in the case, police added.
An exact cause of death will be up to the city’s medical examiner, but a preliminary investigation determined Johnson suffered a single gunshot wound to her right temple, from a bullet that exited and was recovered from a nearby parked car, the official said.
Adams declined to say where the baby was Thursday, saying city officials were in touch with family members.
The killing comes amid heightened nationwide political attention to gun violence after recent high-profile shootings, including massacres at an upstate New York supermarket and at an elementary school in Texas. President Joe Biden last weekend signed into law the first major federal gun safety legislation passed in decades.
New York’s mayor has pushed to thwart gun violence. Adams, along with city and state law enforcement, announced just hours earlier on Wednesday they are filing lawsuits against so-called ghost gun retailers to try to hinder the proliferation of mail-order components used to make untraceable guns.
While shootings and homicides are down year over year in New York, they’re still on par with an uptick that began in 2020. The city recorded 624 shootings this year through Sunday, down 12% from 710 over the same period in 2021, city statistics show. Murders were at 197 incidents in 2022 through Sunday, down 13% from 226 for the same time period last year, the numbers show.
Major crimes as a whole in the city — which include murder, rape, grand larceny, felonious assault and robbery — were up nearly 38% this year as of Sunday, compared to the same time range last year, according to city statistics.
Adams unveiled in January a “Blueprint to End Gun Violence” that includes long-term goals to grow economic opportunities, improve child education and provide more access to mental health resources while addressing the gun crisis.
Also just hours before the shooting Wednesday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a legislative package aimed at tightening gun laws in the state. The Democratic governor’s move came in response to the US Supreme Court’s ruling last week that struck down a century-old New York state gun law that placed restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun outside the home.
The proposal in concept includes a series of protections expanding open carry gun restrictions in sensitive locations, including in federal, state and local government buildings, health and medical facilities as well as at day cares, parks, zoos, playgrounds and on public transportation, Hochul said Wednesday. Educational institutions and places of worship would also be protected under the measure.
“The Supreme Court decision was a setback for us, but I would call it a temporary setback,” she said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference.
Hochul hopes to sign the legislation Thursday after a special legislative session convenes, she said.
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CNN’s Rob Frehse, Aya Elamroussi, Mirna Alsharif and Emily Chang contributed to this report.