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In one of several unsettling weekend shootings, two unwitting taxi passengers were caught in a hail of gunfire early Saturday morning on their way home to Hell’s Kitchen.

The taxi with the two shot passengers stopped at the corner of 9th Avenue and W36th Street near Vito’s Slices and Ices. Photo Citizen App

Nicalus Franklyn, 24, a case worker for a social services agency, and Samy Shelbaya, 22, a medical student, were traveling back to Shelbaya’s Hell’s Kitchen apartment from an evening out at a concert with fellow rugby players in Brooklyn around 3:50am early Saturday morning, when they were shot while in the back of their taxi cab on W37th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue (according to the Post). The taxi driver stopped at the corner of 9th Avenue and W36th Street near Vito’s Slices and Ices.

In a statement, the NYPD said: “It was reported to police on Saturday, July 2, 2022 at approximately 0350 hours, in the vicinity of 265 West 37 Street, an unidentified individual discharged a firearm at a group of other unidentified individuals and instead struck two unintended victims who were sitting inside a taxi cab at a red light at the location. The victims, a 22-year-old male with a gunshot wound to the right arm and a 24-year-old male with a gunshot wound to the left arm, were both removed by EMS to NYC Health + Hospitals/ Bellevue in stable condition.”

“I was screaming in panic because I was like, I don’t know what’s going on,” Shelbaya told ABC7 News. “What we first thought were fireworks we ended up realizing were gunshots. We didn’t see anybody, we didn’t know, so imagine being like, blind.”

Shelbaya was grazed in the arm by a bullet, while Franklyn, whose injury shattered a bone in his arm, underwent surgery at Bellevue Hospital on Saturday afternoon. His father, Alezander Franklyn, told the New York Post that the damage to his arm may affect his ability to continue playing rugby. “I’m not sure what the future is going to hold,” he said.

Said Shelbaya of his outlook to ABC7 News: “Does it make me scared? Yeah, it does. But I’m in a safe area, I know that I’ll be safe and I know that this is an accident, and just gotta stay positive. Because if everyone was to think like that, then no one would go outside, no one would walk, no one would be happy, so just might as well keep staying positive and keep having a positive outlook on life.”

The suspect was believed to have been targeting a couple across the street from Franklyn’s and Shelbaya’s taxi and has not been arrested. Police have released surveillance footage of the suspect obtained near the scene and are appealing to the public for tips on identifying the alleged gunman.

The shooting was just a block away from where two men were shot dead in May at a recording studio on W37th Street just east of 9th Avenue. Police are still searching for four suspects believed to be involved in that shooting. At the time, local council member Erik Bottcher told us: “Our city is awash in guns. More needs to be done to stop the flow of guns into our city and to get them off the streets.”

Tensions over gun violence in the city have rarely been higher as a spate of high profile shootings have occurred in the week following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down New York’s concealed carry law. Last week, 20-year-old Azsia Johnson was shot at point-blank range at the intersection of E95th Street and Lexington Avenue. This comes after a 21-year old college basketball star was fatally shot in Harlem earlier in the month and an 11-year old girl was killed in crossfire in May.

According to the New York Times, shootings in the city are down 12 percent from 2021 but up 28 percent from 2019. New York Lawmakers passed legislation on Friday to counteract the Supreme Court ruling by enhancing licensing requirements for concealed carry permit applicants and adding areas where concealed carry is prohibited.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart said: “In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, implying that guns are more important than lives in this country, we are passing legislation to ensure that New York State has safe and responsible gun laws. States are the last line of defense, which is why we are stepping up to protect New York from being easily flooded with concealed weapons and keeping firearms out of the wrong hands. These measures, in addition to the previous anti-gun violence legislation we passed, are vital in a time when there are more guns than people in America. New York will continue to prioritize people’s safety and lives, and I thank my conference, Speaker Heastie, and Governor Hochul for their partnership.”

The NYPD is asking for the public’s assistance in finding the individual depicted in the above photo in connection with the taxi shooting.

Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website at https://crimestoppers.nypdonline.org/ or on Twitter @NYPDTips. All calls are confidential.

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