Post by Marc Santora on Dec 2, 2019 2:34:38 GMT -5
More than two years ago, a jury acquitted Wardel Strong on charges of attempted murder.
On Sunday evening, on a pathway in Harlem, he was shot and killed.
His family believes that he was killed by people with ties to those he was accused of shooting. The police, who have not named a suspect, are inclined to agree. ''They think it was a little street justice,'' a law enforcement official said.
Regardless of whether Mr. Strong, 28, helped cause his own death, family and friends said he was the type of person who would not avoid a fight.
Mr. Strong's mother, Vanessa Strong, 48, said yesterday: ''He wasn't a bad kid. He wasn't the type of kid to look for trouble, but when trouble came to him, he didn't back down.''
His grandfather, George Strong, 76, agreed: ''Wardel didn't back down from anything.'' People in the neighborhood even said he was called Mad Dog.
In the housing project at 125th Street and Amsterdam Avenue where his grandfather lives and where Mr. Strong lived for a while after he left high school, residents said that there were others just as headstrong, but that most of them managed to stay out of trouble.
''There were these guys there, bad guys, the kind of tough guys who thought they owned the place,'' Mrs. Strong said. Because her son was the new guy in the building, they used to pick on him, she said. ''They would be selling drugs and they would harass my son and other people.''
''One day my son told them, 'You all can't scare me. My grandmother lives here, and you can't scare me away,' '' she said. Later, though, they told him, ''Next time we see you, we are going to murder you,'' she said.
According to law enforcement officials, Mr. Strong shot two men in the face on Feb. 5, 1995.
''They were all standing in the hallway, and he sees one of them with a gun in his hand,'' his mother said. ''He saw them coming toward him, and there was a scuffle, and he picked up the gun, and he fired and hit a couple of them.''
Mr. Strong fled. For two years he lived with relatives and friends, briefly in North Carolina and sometimes with his girlfriend in Brooklyn, who was soon pregnant, family members said.
On Feb. 1, 1998, one of the victims in the 1995 shooting recognized him as he walked down 125th Street and called the police, a law enforcement official said. The case took more than a year to reach trial, but on March 17, 2000, Mr. Strong was acquitted on all charges, including attempted murder.
''The first year he was home he just wouldn't go down there, because he thought, 'I don't want to have any problems,' '' Mrs. Strong said. His girlfriend had broken up with him, so he mostly lived with his mother, she said. In the last year, Mr. Strong began spending more time at his grandparents' apartment, despite the fact that the people involved in the 1995 shooting were still living in the same project. ''They would just give him dirty looks, so he figured they were going to let by bygones be bygones,'' Mrs. Strong said.
On Sunday, Mr. Strong left his grandfather's apartment just after 4 p.m. and met his cousin, his mother said. They spoke, then parted, and before the cousin was 20 yards away, he heard gunshots and turned to see Mr. Strong on the ground on a pathway between 430 West 125th Street and Public School 123.
His mother said the doctor told her that he did not suffer much. She said, ''He was shot in the heart, so he died quickly.''