A man attending his daughter’s birthday party in Brooklyn on Monday night turned the joyful celebration into a scene of carnage when he shot and killed her mother and two sisters, the police said.
The man, Joseph McCrimon, then left his 8-year-old daughter inside the fourth-floor apartment in a public-housing project in Brownsville and shot himself in the head on a nearby sidewalk, the police said. The final act was captured by a security camera, officials said.
The distraught girl called 911 around 11:15 p.m. and told police that her father had come to her party and had killed her family. “She was weeping and crying” and said her father didn’t bring presents, Chief of Detectives James Essig said Tuesday. “It was heartbreaking.”The officers who responded found the girl inside the apartment clutching her sister’s bloody cellphone and a stuffed pink unicorn, according to a police official briefed on the investigation. She had been asleep and had been awakened by the sound of arguing and gunshots and had hidden in the closet, the official said.
Investigators were still working to determine a motive for the killings and had interviewed family members, Essig said. McCrimon and the girl’s mother had a 20-year romantic relationship, which Essig described as “very rocky.”
“We know he left in an agitated state to meet her,” he said. The police had not received other domestic violence complaints or 911 calls about the couple, he said.
The police identified the girl’s mother as Rasheeda Barzey, 45, and her sisters as Solei Spears, 20, and Chloe Spears, 16. They were all shot in the head. The surviving girl was not injured and was placed in the care of relatives, according to the police.
Officers found McCrimon, a 46-year-old felon whose last name was also given as McCrimons, with a wound to the head. Police found a gun in the apartment and one next to his body.
The city’s police commissioner, Dermot Shea, said he had watched body-camera footage recorded by the officers who responded to the 911 call. “It would tear your heart out to see the young girl from that crime,” he said.
Neighbors of Barzey said the family had not lived in the building for very long.
“It’s sad because the girl lost her parents,” said Denessa Temple, 45, who lived down the hall from the family. “She’s going to be traumatized for the rest of her life.”
A woman who lived below the family said that she had heard sporadic arguments from the apartment in the past, including banging and a woman screaming. But, she said, there had been no yelling before she heard the gunshots fired Monday evening.
“It was pop, pop,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous out of concern for her safety. She heard someone wailing after the first two shots. Then three more. Then, she said, “There was dead silence.”
Barzey was an administrative manager for the city’s public hospital system, according to her LinkedIn page. Her oldest daughter, Solei Spears, was a junior at Baruch College in Manhattan, where she was majoring in political science, a school spokeswoman said.
Spears was active in the Black Student Union and was passionate about artworks that reflect the experiences of Black women, the union’s Instagram page said. She also aspired to have an impact on the world, the page said.
According to her own Instagram account, Spears traveled with fellow students to Puerto Rico in July 2019 to rebuild homes and provide relief to the victims of two hurricanes that had devastated that island.
Detectives were still trying to piece together the events that led to the killings. McCrimon, who lived in Mount Vernon, New York, was no stranger to violence. In 1995, he was convicted of first-degree manslaughter after the police in Hempstead, New York, said he had shot a sanitation worker in the back on Halloween two years earlier.
The worker, Eugene Grant, Jr., 28, a father of five, had just broken up a street fight involving Grant’s nephew, according to Newsday. McCrimon was 18 at the time. He claimed the gun fell out of his pocket and went off while Grant was reaching for it, according to court documents.
McCrimon spent five years in state prison before being granted conditional release in 2000, according to state corrections records. Three years later, he was incarcerated again for an unspecified violation, but he completed his sentence a few months later in August 2003 and was finally released from Sing Sing Correctional Facility.
In 2013, McCrimon pleaded guilty to robbing a bank in the Hudson Valley and was sentenced to another five years in prison, court papers said. He later denied committing the crime and persuaded an appeals court to reduce his sentence by a year.
In a sentencing memo, federal prosecutors noted that he did not accept responsibility for either the robbery or the killing and said that he was “an unlikely candidate for rehabilitation.”
For years, even as murders have declined significantly in New York City, the number of domestic homicides has remained stubbornly high. As of Sunday, the New York police had investigated 14 domestic homicides this year, a department spokesman said. In 2020, there were 58 domestic killings, compared with 64 the year before.
City officials have been particularly worried about a possible increase in domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic. Even though domestic homicides fell last year, many doctors and advocates said they had seen strong signs of an increase in violence at home as shutdown restrictions kept people inside and economic pressures mounted.
At a news conference Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the killings of Barzey and her children “a horrible, horrible situation” and said the city had redoubled its efforts to support groups that help victims of domestic violence.
“On top of all the extraordinary challenges of this pandemic we have seen another horrible blight, which is more domestic violence,” de Blasio said.