Mother gunned down on NYC street was apparently targeted: police sources

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Friday, July 1, 2022
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The investigation continues into the murder of a woman shot in the head while pushing a baby stroller on a Manhattan street Wednesday night. Josh Einiger has more on the emotional vigil held Thursday night.

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- The investigation continues into the murder of a woman shot in the head while pushing a baby stroller on a Manhattan street Wednesday night, though police believe the horrific crime to be domestic in nature and not a random attack.

Before she was shot and killed, 20-year-old Azsia Johnson texted a relative that she was planning to meet the father of their 3-month-old child "to work things out," according to police sources.

"I knew it was going to come to this, and I told my daughter this," mom Lisa Desort said. "For some reason, she felt like she needed to be tracked, so she text her sister and said, 'This is my location, just in case.'"

Detectives learned of the texts Thursday morning, solidifying their theory that Johnson was targeted.

"We strongly believe it was not a random shooting," Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday. "We will catch the person responsible."

Johnson, who also has a 1-year-old son and who family members said was an aspiring pediatric nurse who loved being a mom, filed a complaint against her child's father for allegedly assaulting her in January in Jamaica, Queens, while she was pregnant with their daughter.

"He beat her when she was 6 months pregnant," Desort said. "I told her, if he beat you up once, he's going to beat you up again."

The 24-year-old was never arrested, although police have been looking him. He reportedly has family in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens that he may have been hiding out with during that time.

Police want to talk to him, but they have not formally named him as a suspect in Johnson's murder.

He has at least five prior arrests dating back to 2017 for felonies ranging from reckless endangerment to robbery.

Family members held a vigil for the slain mother Thursday night.

Ebony Paulin, a neighbor and good friend, said Johnson adored her children.

"She never wanted a confrontation, wanted to raise her kids and just grow," she said. "She was quiet, never had a problem with nobody."

Detectives say Johnson was living at a women's shelter in East Harlem.

The shooting happened on Lexington Avenue and East 95th Street around 8:25 p.m. Wednesday.

Police say Johnson was pushing the stroller when a man wearing all black, a hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants walked up from behind and shot her in the head at point blank range, close enough to leave burn marks on her face.

She was hit on the left side of her face, between her ear and cheek. The bullet exited her head on the left side of her face, below her left ear. Police recovered the round from a nearby car and the shell casing from the street.

A 10-year-old who witnessed the murder told Eyewitness News it was a single gunshot.

"I just heard a huge noise, it was just one, but it was extremely loud, like, 'boom,'" the child said. "I seen a lot of people running, and then I saw a few people. I saw a woman down there, she fell. And at first I thought, 'Is she OK?' And then I saw people calling 911 and cops pull up."

Johnson was taken to Metropolitan Hospital, where she died about an hour later.

Police say the baby was also rushed to the hospital, but was unharmed.

The shooter fled the scene, traveling eastbound on East 95th Street.

"Azsia was a good person, and she ain't deserve that," Paulin said. "Some people are out there, not Azsia."

Adams spoke at the scene of the incident after he spent the day addressing the proliferation of guns on city streets.

"When a mother is pushing a baby carriage down the block and is shot at point blank range, it shows just how this national problem is impacting families," Adams said. "We are going to find this person that is guilty of this horrific crime. We are going to find him and bring him to justice."

So far, no arrests have been made so far.

Anyone with information is urged to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). You can also submit tips by visiting the CrimeStoppers website at crimestoppers.nypdonline.org or by messaging on Twitter @NYPDTips.

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