NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Queens mother of three was shot and killed by a stray bullet that crashed through her bedroom window early Wednesday morning.
Police said Bertha Arriaga’s 14-year-old son was the one who discovered her dead.
The bullet entered a third-floor window just before 1 a.m. on 34th Avenue and 92nd Street in Jackson Heights.
Police said it struck the 43-year-old victim in the neck, killing her.
“She was sleeping, and she heard some noise on the street, and she got up from bed, she looked at the window, and that’s when she got hit,” Arriaga’s brother-in-law, Javier, told CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge. “My brother called me last night around 2 in the morning, and he told me that Bertha — that was his wife’s name — he told me that Bertha was laying on the floor with a lot of blood in her mouth.”
Awful story. This hole in the glass is where a stray bullet hit 43 yr-old mother of 3, Bertha Arriaga in the head killing her. Her 14 yr-old son found her. Police say she was looking out the window because she heard a noise. It appears to be totally random. @CBSNewYork pic.twitter.com/1EqbWyPxvQ
— Natalie Duddridge (@NatDuddridgeTV) September 30, 2020
The couple’s three children were home, and their 14-year-old son thought Arriaga was choking. His father ran into the room and couldn’t comprehend what was happening until he saw the bullet hole.
“We’re trying to figure out why — why at that time, why suddenly, why at that time would she looked at the window?” said Javier Arriaga. “I don’t know who we should blame.”
Police released surveillance video of two persons of interest, caught on camera trying to steal a bike outside the victim’s apartment building just minutes before she was shot, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
Investigators don’t know if the individuals were responsible for the shooting or if they were the intended targets. Police received a 911 call about shots fired around the same time the son called. It’s unclear if the bullet was fired from the street or a nearby rooftop.
Neighbors and family said they are struggling to make sense of it all
“It make you feel scared because I live here in the next building,” resident Mauriceo Herrera said.
“Inside the house is supposed to be secure, but now nothing is secure,” resident Carlos Enriquez added.
Watch Hazel Sanchez’s report —
Twenty-two-year-old Michael Maldonado says he would see Arriaga in the basement doing laundry and coming into the building with groceries.
“She’d just have nobody to help her, so sometimes she’s struggling with the doors,” he said. “I’d open the door for her … I can say that she’s a nice woman.”
Mike Sald has been trying to wrap his head around the tragic loss of his employee.
“It’s hard to believe,” he told CBS2’s Cory James.
Sald says Arriaga worked at his Food Universe store on Baxter Avenue in Elmhurst for over 20 years.
“She was a cashier and her husband is actually the manager. They actually met at the store,” he said.
We are offering a REWARD of up to $10,000 for the information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the senseless murder of Mrs. Bertha Arriaga. Call us: 1-800-577-TIPS (888-57-PISTA en español) It’s ANONYMOUS! #YourCityYourCall https://t.co/GOLNzP99re
— NYPD Crime Stoppers (@NYPDTips) September 30, 2020
Sources said Arriaga did not have a criminal record or anything to indicate she was a target.
Her family said she moved to America from Mexico 25 years ago for a better life and had been living in the building for 16 years.
“She worked really, really hard for the kids,” Javier Arriaga said. “She was always telling me, ‘My sons are going to go to the best schools.'”
Arriaga was one of two women hit by stray gunfire in New York City on Wednesday.
A 52-year-old woman was hot in the Bronx while walking near East 224th Street. She is expected to be OK.
Sald says the violence is getting out of control.
“As you can see with the world, you watch the news, this is normal now,” he said.
“It’s crazy, it’s just, between that and the pandemic, it gets you really sad,” said Julia Passof, a neighbor of Arriaga’s.
“I cannot even imagine, those poor kids. My deepest condolences and prayers,” another neighbor said.
Investigators put up posters asking for tips, and they’re examining the bullet to determine if it can be traced to any recent shootings or crime scenes.
NYPD Crime Stoppers is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
You can get the latest news, sports and weather on our brand new CBS New York app. Download here.