Suspected Harlem smoke shop gunman arrested, charged with back-to-back weekend murders

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, April 11, 2023
Man arrested in back-to-back weekend murders was out on bail
The man arrested in a deadly Harlem smoke shop shooting over the weekend has been charged with another weekend murder, police say.

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- The man arrested in a deadly smoke shop shooting on Sunday was charged with another weekend murder.

Messiah Nantwi, 21, is accused of killing a man inside a Harlem smoke shop Sunday night.

Surveillance video shows nine people inside the shop, including the suspect wearing a dark jacket with an FDNY logo talking to a man in a tan or yellow jacket.

The victim, later identified as 36-year-old Brandon Brunson, turns around and walks away, and that's when the suspect shoots him.

Chaos ensued as people ran out of the shop after the shot was fired. The suspect started to walk out, but stopped to shoot Brunson one more time before leaving him on the floor of the store.

He returns just seconds later and appears to reach into Brunson's pocket.

Brunson suffered gunshot wounds to the head and back and was later pronounced dead at an area hospital.

Now, police believe Nantwi also killed a 19-year-old Saturday afternoon in East Harlem.

He was charged with murder in both incidents.

Nantwi's first run-in with police was in February 2021, when he shot at police while spraypainting graffiti in the Bronx.

Body camera footage from the 2021 incident shows the officers fire close to two dozen shots. None of the officers were injured, and the gun was literally blown out of Nantwi's hand.

Nantwi was charged with first-degree attempted murder, according to Bronx prosecutors.

He was remanded and bail was set at $500,000 which was later reduced to $300,000 by the judge.

Nantwi posted 10% or $30,000 cash and was released within weeks. That case has yet to come to trial.

Retired NYPD detective Michael Alcazar is a professor at John Jay College. He says New Yorkers have a right to be outraged.

"This perp shot at a cop and then he was released only to commit two homicides," Alcazar said. "The system failed the City of New York."

On Facebook two years ago, a woman identifying herself as Nantwi's aunt tried to raise the bail money, saying he had "a horrible altercation with NYPD."

Police blocked the hallway outside the family's apartment this Tuesday afternoon.

Alcazar believes the judge likely took a chance on granting bail because of Nantwi's age and the fact that he had no prior arrests.

"This person shot at police," Alcazar said. "To me, that's, like, a no-brainer. He should have stayed in jail."


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