NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Police said Monday that a stabbing that left a 6-year-old boy dead and a 7-year-old girl injured in a Brooklyn apartment building might be related to an earlier deadly stabbing nearby.
Prince Joshua “P.J.” Avitto, 6, and Mikayla Capers, 7, were found viciously stabbed inside an elevator at the Boulevard Houses public housing development on Schenck Avenue in East New York.
Mikayla survived, but Prince Joshua did not.
As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, P.J.’s mother, Aricka McClinton, spoke with reporters Monday night, as the community gathered for a painful vigil. McClinton was so distraught she barely able to stab up, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.
“We got to find this man. We all have to find this man,” McClinton said. “My baby is gone. My niece is critical. We’ve got to find this man.” She said P.J.’s birthday was coming up in 15 days.
Police Monday were looking into whether the two young children were victims of a serial stabber, and said Monday evening that the stabbing might be related to an earlier incident due to “several common factors.”
Investigators found an 8-inch kitchen knife with a black handle near the scene — similar to one used in an attack Friday night just blocks away.
Nursing student Tanaya Copeland, 18, was fatally stabbed in the Friday night incident at 864 Stanley Ave. in Brooklyn.
“We have all department resources focused on that particular area; very concerned about it,” said NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. “We have re-canvasses – we canvassed last night; we re-canvassed today.
“We don’t know if the stabbing of the 18-year-old was connected,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said earlier. “All we know is three people — three innocent people — were stabbed in a three-day period.”
Family members wanted justice to be served, and as quickly as possible.
“This individual who took my daughter’s life; stabbed an 18-year-old child over 30 times, a 7-year-old girl 15 times, and a little boy,” said Mikayla’s mother, Rochelle Bruce. “I mean, if anybody, please, if you all know anything, you all go to open your mouth, because it could be your child next.”
Balloons were released Monday night in memory of the dead, candles were lit, and Copeland’s friends rallied steps away. Members of the marching band she belonged to – the Gershwin Royal Knights, were in attendance.
The community had a warning for the assailant Monday night.
“If you wish to live another day do yourself a favor; do yourself some justice and turn yourself in,” said Kirsten John Foy of the National Action Network.
Earlier in the day, family members were nearly inconsolable as they mourned the boy who lost his life.
“He’s my pride and joy, he’s my life, my rock that I lived for, my backbone, and he took my light away from me,” P.J.’s father, Nicholas Avitto, told CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes. “I hope this guy is brought to justice.”
“I don’t know what monster would do something like this,” Mikayla’s great-grandmother Regenia Trevathan said. “This is senseless.”
As CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported, police have released a sketch of a suspect. They were helped by Mikayla, who was in critical condition late Monday, but was able to give police enough of a description.
There are no surveillance cameras in the public housing complex. Thus, police said, there is no video of the suspect, and police are relying on Mikayla’s memory.
Police said a man cornered the two best friends in the tiny elevator and stabbed each child repeatedly. P.J. stumbled off at the fourth floor.
Trevathan said that just before 6 p.m. Sunday, adults were watching the kids play outside on a playground on a picture-perfect Sunday evening, when the children went into the building for a snack. But horror awaited them in the elevator.
“Everybody loved P.J. Everybody loved P.J.,” said family friend Sophia Diaz. “He didn’t deserve to die like this. Ain’t nobody deserves to die like this.”
“He was very intelligent and enthusiastic; curious; a learner; went to charter school,” added Nicholas Avitto.
On Monday evening, fingerprint dust covered the place where P.J. took his last breath.
“All he wanted was to go upstairs and get an Icee — an Icee — and he got murdered in the elevator,” Diaz said.
P.J. was fascinated, like many 6-year-olds, with superheroes.
“He might have acted like he was a superhero when the guy pulled the knife on him – thinking it was a prank or something. I don’t know,” Nicholas Avitto said. “But he’s gone. I’m going to miss my beloved – my last baby son.”
Both children were stabbed in the torso, police said. The victims were taken to Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, where P.J. was pronounced dead.
Mikayla was moved to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where she was listed in critical condition, police said.
“She fought for her life,” Trevathan said. “She has defensive wounds all over her hands and everything where she was fighting for her dear life.”
After the attack at 845 Schenk Ave., the suspect ran down the sidewalk and cut through the grass at the nearby 857 Schenk Ave. building, police said. At one point, he stumbled and dropped the knife.
Police notified neighbors of the incident through a bullhorn, and papered the area with fliers – offering a reward for information. Meanwhile, the neighborhood grieved the senseless death of a child who loved baseball and Batman, and prayed that his best friend would survive.
“Pray for her — and us. And pray for P.J. and his family. This is senseless,” Trevathan said.
The suspect is described only as a heavy-set black man in his 20s wearing a grey sweatshirt, police said. Boyce said the attack seems random and that police don’t have any video of the suspect running off.
The reward for information leading to an arrest has climbed to $12,000, the NYPD said Monday afternoon. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
“We have a few people who said they recognized him from the neighborhood. However, they were not eyewitnesses to the assault on the two children,” Boyce told reporters, including 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa. “They just saw him running off.”
As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported, the extra police presence in the troubled 75th Precinct was reassuring for parents.
“I’m hurt, because at the end of the day, you know, all these little kids out here are innocent,” said Serena Merlo of East New York.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the attack “a horrible crime.”
“I think parents all over this city are feeling pain today and our hearts go out to his family,” he told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb.
De Blasio added that he’s grateful Mikayla is alive.
“She’s getting exceptional care,” he said. “We are praying and hoping she can pull through.”
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the crime has him extraordinarily concerned and angry.
“Two young children in an elevator with no place to escape – nothing at all, and some character gets on and just starts stabbing them? They have every right to be concerned. I was at the scene last night. I’m extraordinarily concerned and angry about it – both at the idea that children cannot, in their own building, feel safe taking an elevator,” Bratton said. “No, we’re going to get this character, and hopefully we will get him very, very quickly.”
Borough President Adams was also warning parents in the area to be on alert.
“Until this sick mind is caught, our children should be escorted to school,” Adams said Monday. “We should visibly watch over as they are playing on the field. We should ensure when they take the elevator or walk to the store, that someone is watching our children.”
De Blasio said extra police have been assigned to the area to provide security.
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