The man wanted for fatally shooting 16-year-old Shemel Mercurius as her terrified three-year-old nephew looked on, turned himself into police at a Brooklyn Police Station on Thursday and has since been charged.
According to a New York Daily News report, 24-year-old Taariq Stephens, who has a half dozen prior arrests, turned himself into police after his lawyer arranged his surrender. He was late Thursday charged with murder and weapon possession at the 67th Precinct stationhouse in East Flatbush.
On Friday morning, members of Mercurius’ family showed up at the stationhouse in Brooklyn to watch as cops hauled Stephens off to court. Mercurius’ father, Dexter Mercurius, said that he wanted to see if he recognised his daughter’s killer. “I know this guy used to live right in the neighbourhood and I wanted to see if I knew this guy—but honestly I never knew this guy,” he said. “My daughter’s 16 and he’s 24. I would like to know why he did this. It’s still hard for me right now.”
He later said that he was thankful for the police who investigated the killing and that Stephens had enough sense to surrender. “Thank God for this guy turning himself in, God will take it from here,” the dad said.
With her dying breath, the Guyanese-born Mercurius gave police her alleged killer’s first name after the Tuesday night shooting, sources said.
According to the report, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said that a video camera recorded the gunman forcing his way inside the home after the teen initially rebuffed his efforts. The teen was shot in both arms, with one of the bullets punching through her right arm into her chest.
The motive for the killing remained unclear and according to Boyce, initial reports that the killer was Shemel’s boyfriend proved inaccurate.
“From what we can read of the texts, it is not a romantic relationship. There’s a lot more to go in this case…to figure out,” Boyce was quoted as saying.
The report said that Stephens was carrying a powerful Kel-Tec submarine gun when he forced his way into the Brooklyn Avenue apartment where Mercurius was babysitting her nephew just before 6pm on Tuesday.
“He pulls out the stock of a gun before he shoots this young lady,” Boyce said. “He racks three times, leaving three full rounds outside on the hallways.”
One of the bullets tore through the girl’s arm and into her chest, killing her. The toddler was not injured, although his mother said the child was terrified by what he saw.
According to sources, Stephen’s lawyer contacted police on Thursday after the suspect’s name was released and said the ex-convict was ready to turn himself in.
The report said that the slain girl’s mother, Lovern Williams-Oliver, was scrambling in Guyana for a visitor’s visa to attend her daughter’s funeral. The two last spoke only two days before the Tuesday night killing.
“She is my first baby,” said the mother as she fought back tears. “I don’t know how something like this can happen to my baby. She was peaceful, loving and inspirational,” she was further quoted as saying
It was also reported that four of the slain teen’s Edward R. Murrow High School classmates collected $137 toward paying for her funeral.
Her classmates also observed a moment of silence on Thursday after her death was announced by Principal Allen Barge.
“It just touched our hearts that her life ended so abruptly,” said Ebony Campbell, 15. “We felt like we had to do something.”
Another junior, Kindersly Louis, 17, said, “She was such a nice person, sweet person. When I saw her picture on the news, I started freaking out. I was crying and crying.” The family is still in the process of finalising funeral plans for Mercurius, the report added.
According to grandmother Joan Mercurius, “we went to the morgue this morning to identify the body. We don’t have a date yet, but we are starting to put things together.”