Jessie, her parents, two friends of the family (Wanda and Norm) and I went out to dinner in Chinatown last night. The idea was to check out some restaurants to see which would qualify as the place for our pre-wedding dinner. Jessie and I want to do something uniquely New York for the dinner and a Chinese dinner in Chinatown seems/seemed like a great idea. We are getting married on August 8th and the #8, signifying wealth, is a very lucky number to the Chinese so we thought it be a perfect match to dine on Chinese cuisine the night before our wedding. Around 11 PM, after a lovely meal at the Peking Duck House on Mott St., on our way back to the garage where we parked the car, the following happened (from the NY Post):
January 18, 2004 — One man was killed and another injured when a Chinatown street was riddled with bullets in a mystery gun attack late last night. The shots fired on Division Street left dozens of bullet holes in walls and cars, and were so rapid that witnesses suspected they came from an AK-47.
Police investigating the shooting marked at least 41 bullet casings left on the normally quiet street lined with Chinese restaurants and small companies. Cops also found an empty .35- caliber revolver next to one of the victims who was lying on the street in front of elementary school PS 124, according to a source.
Both men were in their 20s and were shot four times. The injured man was rushed to Bellevue Hospital, cops said.
Cops believe the shooting may have been triggered by a dispute between rival gang members, who initially clashed in the Super Taste House Chinese restaurant at 49 Division St. and took their grievance outside, sources said.
Witnesses said they were shocked by the barrage of shots, which lasted about ten seconds and could be heard inside NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza.
“It sounded like when you get a hammer and bang it on a metal sheet. It was a lot of shots, really fast, its sounded like a Kalashnikov,” said one man who was visiting his girlfriend on Division St. when he heard the gunfire at 11 p.m.
The man, Roma, 22, of Queens, who withheld his last name, said he was going to tell his girlfriend to move off the street.
“I’m gong to tell her to move, right now,” he said. “Never in my life have I seen this.”
No one had been arrested for the shooting last night.
When the gunfire erupted, we were about 30 – 50 yards away from the garage. It took me about 1 – 2 seconds to yell “gunshots!” and I wound up grabbing Jessie and her mother and pushed them in back of a charter bus that was parked on the street to avoid stray bullets. We ducked in back of this bus as Norm stood further up the block, closer to the action, watching the excitement yelling “It’s only firecrackers – calm down!” Her father at first stood as well and finally half-heartedly ducked down behind a knee high brick wall – he was unsure whether the sounds were gunshots or firecrackers but decided better safe than sorry.
When the shooting/firecrackers ended, Wanda (who was born in China and is fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese) began talking to one of the bus drivers and told us “He’s on a walkie-talkie with other people, those were gunshots…those were gunshots!” About 30-45 seconds after that 4 squad cars arrived and 2 ambulances showed up.
Once the police arrived, we began to walk down the block to the garage, very eager to get the car and go home, animatedly arguing about what just happened. Jessie’s hands were visibly shaking. About 10 paces from the garage entrance laid a body on the ground, his head pointing towards the building, his feet in the street, face down like he was doing the superman float in a pool. I told Jessie to look away and keep walking as I watched a cop shake the body. While I saw no blood there was no movement – I assume this is the man that died in the article above. It was then that I knew without a doubt that I was right. It was then that I started to feel shaken.
Once in the car, we animatedly started to discuss what happened – the women yelling at the men (me excluded) about how they reacted – and then it really hit me really how close we came to utter disaster. As we drove out of the garage, crime scene tape was already up to our immediate right and we noticed various car windows had been shot out. We drove off toward our apartment, each jabbering away with his/her version of the story and no one could agree on exactly what happened. Wanda saw a man in a red sweater running away holding his back. Jessie saw a man in a grey sweater with a red adidas logo running away holding his back (it turns out this was most probably the man who is now in the hospital suffering from a gunshot wound to the back). What we did agree on was that we were extremely lucky.
Without embellishment, if we arrived 1 – 2 minutes earlier at the garage I may not be here writing this entry. We would have either been in the middle of the gun battle or driven out of the garage right next to it. Then again, 3 – 4 minutes earlier we would have been in the garage, waiting for the valet to get the car perfectly safe.
Story post-script: Peking Duck House is a perfect place for our pre-wedding dinner. The food is great, the private room is the right size and the price is right. Whether or not we still want to have it in Chinatown is a different story though. Neighborhoods can change very quickly from good to bad – we ate in the good part and parked in the bad part, time will tell whether or not the good outweighs the bad.