The basketball game had just ended when the long and lethal nightmare started for a Bronx family.
Jelani Green, 25, died more than two months after taking a stray bullet to her neck at a Morris Heights playground where her older brother had just played in an annual Father’s Day hoops tournament.
Family members stood vigil in shifts at the hospital while she battled for life until passing away Tuesday, leaving her devastated relatives to mourn.
“My sister was killed by senseless gun violence,” said Chanel Love, 31, one of Green’s four siblings. “She was really happy … prettiest girl I ever met. She loved everybody that loved her. She was everything you would’ve wanted to be.”
Green was initially paralyzed from her neck down from the single shot fired about 8:45 p.m. in the crowded Half-Nelson Playground on June 19, sending the ambitious young hairdresser to St. Barnabas Hospital. The bullet, fired in a local gang dispute, passed through her neck before tearing into her shoulder and spine, family members said.
There was no sign of the impending horrors before the gunshot tore through the park.
“Our game was finished,” said brother David Love, 32, recounting the scene of the still-unsolved crime. “We were getting dressed, everybody leaving the park.”
Green was an unintended target, caught in a gang feud in a park filled with Juneteenth celebrants and the crowd at the annual tournament, police sources said. The playground sits about a half mile from her home, and she was shot near the entrance to the park on Nelson Ave. near W. 174th St.
Police recovered a shell casing at the scene after a member of the Highbridge gang opened fire on a rival from the River Park Towers gang, according to the police source. Green was the only victim of the violence, which came during her grandmother’s first visit to the city from North Carolina in 15 years.
Family members were initially optimistic about her recovery despite some serious medical issues, including spinal fluid leaking into her brain.
“She was talking, we were laughing,” said Chanel Love. “Until she wound up getting sick.”
Relatives recalled Green’s brave fight for survival as her health failed, battling her way through two collapsed lungs, a stroke and a coma. She was finally killed by a confluence of infections, leaving behind her parents, two brothers, two sisters and nine nieces and nephews, her devastated family said.
Basketball court along Nelson Ave. where Jelani Green, 25, was shot on June 19 in the Bronx. (Nicholas Williams/for New York Daily News)
The family stayed by her bedside throughout, dividing the day into two shifts to support Green.
“We had her, every day,” said her brother. “We were in rotation. We wanted to make sure they see we were there for her.”
An eyewitness recounted the chaotic scene on the day of the shooting when he came to Green’s aid.
“She was in and out of consciousness twice,” said Isaac Williams, 29. “She was crying, holding on to her bag. She was saying ‘It just hurts’ and ‘Where is my mom?’ I was trying to keep her calm because she was in shock.”
Chanel Love said her younger sister fought hard for her life: “Jelani’s fighting, can’t say she wasn’t.”
But in the end, her wounds proved too much for the young woman who worked for hairstyling clients both in Manhattan and the Bronx.
Her brother David, struggling through his anguish, was left to mourn the loss of a sister with so much promise.
“Jelani’s up there teaching God how to dance,” he said. “I lost my heart. That’s my heart.”
The 46th Precinct, which covers Morris Heights, has seen 31 people shot this year through Sunday, a 3% drop from the 32 people shot by the same point last year. Nine people had been slain in the precinct this year through Sunday compared with 10 people during the same time frame last year, a 10% decline.
Citywide, shootings and homicides are both down 12% so far this year compared with last year.
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News