In the early hours of this morning (Wednesday), a Hell’s Kitchen smoke shop worker was shot. Police are searching for at least six men after the incident, which happened on the same day as New York City Council holds a hearing about the unlicensed stores.
NYPD say the men entered the Smoke City store at 710 9th Avenue between W48/49th Street just after midnight. When a worker tried to get the group to leave, a dispute continued out on 9th Avenue. A member of the group pulled a gun and shot the worker in the leg.
Some of the group fled the scene southbound on 9th Avenue on scooters. The employee, 32, was taken to Bellevue Hospital. His injury was not life-threatening — and video aired by Eyewitness News (who originally reported the story) showed the worker on his phone as he was lifted into the ambulance on a stretcher.
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Police are investigating the shooting and will review security camera footage from the store and surrounding area.
The proliferation of unlicensed smoke shops on 9th Avenue and around New York has caused many residents concern. Council member Gale Brewer hosted a town hall about the “smoke cloud of confusion” last month This is the second shooting this month, a worker was shot in the back at another smoke shop in the Lower East Side earlier in January.
The City Council will host a public hearing at City Hall and on Zoom about “the proliferation of unlicensed smoke shops in New York City” this morning (Wednesday, January 18) at 10am. Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes (PAVe), a national advocacy organization, has been campaigning against the stores, saying: “The recent rapid increase in the number of unlicensed smoke and vape shops in NYC threatens the health and safety of our communities.” They say that “these renegade retailers” have taken over communities and could “harm our kids”.