NYPD partners with ATF to track down guns as community mourns slain Queens boy

Justin Wallace

FAR ROCKAWAY, Queens — A slain Queens boy was remembered Tuesday on what would have been his 11th birthday.

Justin Wallace was fatally shot on Saturday night. Classmates left balloons, flowers and heartfelt letters outside the home where he was killed. by a gunshot to the torso. A relative was also injured in the shooting.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who met with Wallace’s family, said the boy texted with his sister about birthday plans before he was killed.

“He had wonderful, beautiful plans for his birthday, which friends he wanted to come to his birthday party, where he wanted to go. He was planning for a joyous moment,” de Blasio said. “Now he’s gone because of gun violence, because there are too many guns out there. Because there are people who don’t care about human life and who need to be apprehended, who should not be out there with a gun.”

Memorial for Justin Wallace
Memorial for Justin Wallace (Darren McQuade/PIX11)

No arrests have been made in Wallace’s death, but police have released video of the shooter, seen firing at least eight times.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40,000 Americans are shot and killed every year.

De Blasio pointed to new collaboration with the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives designed to get guns off of New York City’s streets.

“This is crucial. Everyone agrees, the number-one issue is guns, getting the guns off our streets,” he said. “We all know that the proliferation of guns during the pandemic was unprecedented and troubling, and, therefore, we have to double down on getting guns off our streets.”

The ATF partnership with the NYPD is the first time the agency has partnered with a local police department this way, de Blasio said.

“It means we’re going to have ATF agents directly embedded in the NYPD, working together to find guns and quickly act on the information that they find to stop the flow of guns,” de Blasio said. “It takes information, it takes partnership. It takes the ability to quickly act, that can only happen when the federal government and the NYPD are working, literally, side-by-side here in New York City.”

The partnership means the NYPD will better be able to trace guns, NYPD Counterterrorism Deputy Commissioner John Miller said.

“Every gun tells a story. Every bullet tells a story. Every shell casing tells a story and ATF technology helps us bring that all together,” he said. “We talk about stray bullets. There are no stray bullets. There are stray dogs, but every bullet has an owner and that’s the person who fired that shot. And those are our targets in the city.”

Sheffali Welch is the co-lead of the New York Chapter of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots group of volunteers advocating lawmakers for sensible gun legislation. 

“Over 15,000 children and teens are either shot and killed or wounded every year in gun violence this is a public health crisis,” said Welch. “People in minority communities are ten times more likely to be shot and killed by a firearm than in white communities.”

Moms Demand Action has been instrumental in pushing a gun legislation package in Albany. 

“Right now we are advocating for three bills that are part of a package for gun safety legation,” said Welch. “One would allow victims of gun violence and other authorities to file suit against the gun industry, another bill that would require newly manufactured handguns to be equipped with micro-stamped technology and two bills prohibiting sale and distribution of ghost guns, which are untraceable, un-serialized, undetectable firearms can be purchased without background check.”z

Part of the gun legislation has passed the state Senate. Advocates are hoping the state Assembly will take it up for a vote before the end of the legislative session in the coming days. 

Submit tips to police by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), visiting crimestoppers.nypdonline.org, downloading the NYPD Crime Stoppers mobile app, or texting 274637 (CRIMES) then entering TIP577. Spanish-speaking callers are asked to dial 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).

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