NEW YORK – The 31-year-old Queens man arrested in connection with the stray bullet death of a Hispanic mother in New York City last month was charged with murder, manslaughter and other charges for allegedly firing the shot that went through the window of a third-floor apartment and killed Bertha Arriaga, the Queens County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.
Corona’s Issam Elabbar was indicted on a seven-count indictment charging him with second degree murder, second degree manslaughter, second degree criminal possession of a weapon, attempted petty theft, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree and illegal possession of pistol ammunition. Elabbar is scheduled to return to court on January 12, 2021. If convicted, the defendant faces up to 25 years in prison. The lawyer’s information was not immediately known.
Arriaga’s 14-year-old son called 911 after finding his injured mother in her Jackson Heights apartment shortly before 1 a.m. on Sept. 30, authorities said. Arriaga, 43, a mother of three, had been shot in the neck and there was apparently a bullet hole in the front window. A family member said she was alive when her son found her and ran into the other room to wake up his father.
According to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, Arriaga fell to the ground with blood coming from the gunshot wound and struggled to breathe. The victim’s 14-year-old son heard gurgling noises. He followed the sound and found his mother.
Arriaga’s husband, Jorge, tried to perform CPR and do everything possible to keep his wife alive, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police released surveillance video earlier that day showing two men, one of whom was later identified as Elabbar by Queens North Detective Borough Commanding Officer Julie Morrill. A visible cast in the video on Elabbar’s left foot was a key identifying factor in his search, Morrill said in a call with reporters a few days after the deadly shooting.
The bullet apparently entered through the front window after two men attempted to steal a bicycle outside of his building, according to authorities and emergency radio correspondence. The pictures show them working for quite some time to use a power saw to unchain the bike. They make so much noise that people in the neighborhood take notice and seem to fire a shot when escaping.
Detectives say they believe the duo are part of a team that has been stealing bicycles in the area. Crime has increased in the area 4% from last year, led in part by petty theft that jumped almost 25%.
Prosecutors say Arriega was by the window at the exact moment Elebbar allegedly moved his right arm around the front of his body and fired over his left shoulder behind him.
Morrill confirmed that no other suspects were being sought in connection with the homicide investigation.