Michael “MJ” Rowe, 23, has been sentenced to 22 years for shooting a man on a busy Saturday afternoon on 9th Avenue over a $150 drug debt, according to the US Attorney’s Office in New York.
“Michael Rowe resorted to a reckless act of violence when his victim failed to pay him just $150. Rowe could have taken someone’s life on that crowded sidewalk over a trivial drug debt,” said Damian Williams, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement on Thursday. US District Judge Denise Cote handed down the sentence, which followed Rowe’s guilty plea to possessing ammunition after sustaining three prior felony convictions for violent felonies and serious drug offenses.
Rowe had a verbal disagreement with the victim near 650 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen on April 29, 2023. The US Attorney reported that the argument was sparked by the victim’s failure to repay a $150 debt for cocaine that Rowe had provided for him to sell. In a dangerous escalation, Rowe pulled out a firearm and shot the victim multiple times, “injuring him severely in the leg, among other places.” Although the victim was hospitalized with serious injuries, no bystanders were harmed in the incident. Video and photos released by the US Attorney show passersby fleeing from the shooting.
At the time of the Hell’s Kitchen shooting, Rowe was on supervised release. According to a report in the Bronx Times in May, Rowe was not permitted to possess a firearm due to prior felony convictions. In November 2022, he was released after serving 44 months, for two counts of third-degree robbery. In February 2021, while in prison on the robbery charge, Rowe also pleaded guilty to seven counts in a gang-related case. He was known to be involved with the Mac Baller Brims gang, which operated in and around the Mount Hope neighborhood in the Bronx from 2017-2019.
At the time of the shooting at 5:44pm on a Saturday afternoon in April, the victim was identified as 28-year-old Shaquille Bailey. He was treated at Mount Sinai West Hospital for multiple gunshot wounds to the shoulder and hip, police said. The shooting occurred on the east side of 9th Avenue between W45/46th Streets.
After the shooting, the victim can be seen on surveillance video fleeing into The Forbidden Cannabis smoke store — while tourists carrying bags and rolling their suitcases dive for cover.
In a statement, Attorney Williams lauded the rapid response of the FBI and NYPD that led to Rowe’s quick arrest and also praised the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for its role in the investigation. At the time of the arrest, Michael Driscoll, the FBI’s assistant director in charge, stated that the case should be a deterrent. “The charges today should serve as a warning to any individual willing to settle arguments in a similar fashion — the FBI and our partners in law enforcement will hold you accountable in the criminal justice system,” he warned.
After serving his 22-year sentence, Rowe will face an additional five years of supervised release.