Police say 22-year-old Najhim Luke gunned down Brandon Hendricks, believed to be an innocent bystander, on Davidson Avenue in Morris Heights on June 28.
Hendricks had graduated from James Monroe High School just days prior and was on his way to college at St. John's.
Monroe head basketball coach Nigel Thompson described Hendricks as "our leader on and off the floor for the past two seasons."
"I'm pretty certain that the bullets that took Brandon's life were not meant for him," he wrote in a social media post. "He wasn't that kind of a kid."
NYPD Assistant Chief Jason Wilcox declined to elaborate on the motive, but he called it a senseless act at a barbecue.
"A young man, 17-year-old, killed, having just graduated high school, on the threshold of an amazing future," Wilcox said. "Killed with gun violence."
Luke is charged with murder, manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon.
The arrest is welcome news, but still, a community ripped apart by COVID-19 and roiled by protest is molten with anger.
"We have to stand and bury one of our own because of one of our own, that's unacceptable and it's unsustainable," community activist Kirsten John Foy said.
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Hendricks' mother did her part to raise an upstanding child, but all she has now is burning, unrelenting grief.
"You took away my life, you have no idea what you did to me," Eve Hendricks said during a vigil last week. "My son has my heart. Nobody knows how I feel, I don't know how I feel."
According to uncle Noel Ellison, Hendricks' mother would often say, "I gotta get him out of this neighborhood."
"You do all you can," he said. "You force the kid to get good grades. You treat him like he's on top of the world. And he's done everything we've asked for. And his reward should not be an early death."
Hendricks was a star on the hardwood, but more importantly, a star off the court too.
"It's been instilled in him since childhood that he had to go to college," Ellison said. "He knew that that was the goal, it was his responsibility to study hard and get the grades to do it. He's won a couple of basketball awards for being high in his academic stuff."
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