It’s a sunny April day in Jamaica, Queens. At Sutphin Boulevard and 119th Avenue on Thursday morning, the row of houses looks idyllic. But the streets are deserted, except for an NYPD squad car parked at the corner.
In front of a house on 119th Street, across the street from the police car, an arrangement of balloons, flowers, candles, and hand-written notes can be seen. It is a memorial for Leta Webb, a 70-year-old woman from Jamaica, Queens who was shot and killed here early Tuesday morning.
According to local media reports, someone pounding on the front door woke Webb at around 1:30 a.m. When she answered the door, she was shot in the left arm and the head, police said.
The investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made. The police have released surveillance footage of a white Ford Econoline van that the suspect or suspects used to escape immediately following the crime.
Posters with Webb’s face have been stapled to stop signs and telephone poles throughout the neighborhood. They offer $2,000 from the NYPD Crime Stoppers for information leading to an arrest.
Residents of the neighborhood were unwilling to venture guesses as to why the crime occurred but the buzz in local media is that the murder might have involved a gang-related retaliation against a member of her family. The presence of the NYPD squad car outside the family’s house two days later did nothing to quell those claims.
“There was a shooting here so we’re just here to make sure nothing else happens,” one of the police officers in the squad car said.
A squad car will remain at the corner of 119th Avenue and 153rd Street for 24 hours a day for an undetermined amount of time, according to police.
Members of the community approached on Thursday morning were hesitant to talk about the shooting. A general culture of fear was evident in the neighborhood.
“I don’t open my door for nobody, just my kids,” Carol Williams, 35, who lives a block over, said.
She recounted other shootings and drug busts that had occurred in the neighborhood recently. This area, according to Williams, is familiar with crime. Last year there were nine murders and 18 rapes in the 113th precinct, according to NYPD statistics. This year, as of March 22, there have been three murders and three rapes, which is comparable to last year’s numbers during the same period.
But many in the community did seem genuinely saddened by the death of the woman. Those who knew her spoke highly of her.
“She was a good neighbor. She always stopped to chat and was very friendly,” Roxanne Decruiz, another neighbor, said partially concealed behind her screen door. “But this isn’t the type of neighborhood where you go in each other’s houses.”
Meanwhile, in the yard of Webb’s house, loved ones left messages at the makeshift memorial: one balloon reads, “To grandma, I love you,” another says, “Hugs & Kisses.” A large white board displays various messages of love: “I will forever be your daughter-in-law,” “I will always love you mommy Webb family,” and “Gone but never forgotten.”