Gang member arrested for Harlem murders was out on bail after shooting at NYPD officers
Messiah Nantwi was free on $300,000 bail, charged for the attempted murder of officers who confronted him about spraying graffiti
By Thomas Tracy, Ellen Moynihan, Rocco Parascandola and Larry McShane
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — A man arrested for two weekend murders in Harlem — including a cold-blooded, execution-style killing at a smoke shop — was out on bail for allegedly shooting at cops less than two years ago, according to authorities.
Messiah Nantwi, 21, was busted for fatally shooting 19-year-old Jaylen Duncan on Saturday and then blasting another victim from behind the following day, police said Tuesday.
The suspect was out on bail of $300,000 for a February 2021 case in which he was charged with the attempted murder of a police officer after shooting at cops.
Nantwi, identified as a member of the local OTN Goodfellas gang, was arrested while riding a Citi Bike on Lenox Ave., with the 9-mm. murder weapon found nearby, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said Tuesday.
Nantwi was accused of fatally shooting Duncan at Madison Ave. and E. 132nd St. around 4:45 p.m. on Saturday. The victim, who died at Harlem Hospital, lived about 15 blocks from the shooting scene, with Essig saying that he was specifically targeted. The chief did not elaborate.
The teen victim “was always mannerly, never disrespectful,” a neighbor said of Duncan, recalling how she wished the victim a happy 19th birthday earlier this month. “He’d say good morning, he’d always hold the door for me. When I heard about it, my heart really jumped.”
The next day, Nantwi callously pulled a gun and fatally shot a 36-year-old man during a caught-on-video clash in the Smoke Shop on Malcolm X Blvd. near W. 125th St. around 8 p.m., police said.
Surveillance video obtained by the Daily News showed the victim standing at a counter in the store as several men milled around behind him. An argument ensued, with the victim appearing to exchange words with Nantwi.
As the victim walked away, the killer abruptly pulled a gun and blasted him in the neck area, the video shows. As the man struggled to rise, the gunman walked toward him and fired again, leaving his target lying motionless.
The killer was seen reaching into one of the victim’s pockets before the video ends. The victim was also pronounced dead at Harlem Hospital, and his name was not immediately disclosed.
A Crime Stoppers tip helped police locate Nantwi and tied him to the two homicides.
Cops tracked down and arrested him early Tuesday, about a day after police released crystal-clear images of the gunman from the smoke shop shooting. He was charged with murder and gun possession for that slaying and murder for the killing of Duncan.
Nantwi, of East Harlem, lived just a short distance from both murders. His arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court for the back-to-back killings was pending Tuesday evening, and police did not provide a motive for either shooting.
On Feb. 21, 2021, the then-18-year-old Nantwi was charged with the attempted murder of a police officer after shooting at cops who confronted him and an accomplice for spraying graffiti on a wall on Elton Ave. near E. 153rd St. in the Bronx, police said.
The accomplice escaped, but police managed to catch Nantwi, who tussled with the arresting officer before pulling out a gun and firing three times, according to authorities.
The three cops, all in uniform, returned fire, blowing the teen’s .22-caliber handgun in half as it was shot out of his hands. Nantwi was also struck by a number of bullets during the wild exchange and hospitalized.
Nantwi was freed in mid-2021 after coughing up just $30,000 of a $300,000 bail set by a Bronx supreme court judge. The judge had lowered bail from $500,000 over objections from prosecutors, who didn’t want bail set in the first place.
The 2021 case is still pending, according to court records.
The latest allegations against Nantwi stunned neighbors, who declined to give their names.
“He’s always polite,” one woman told The News. “We wouldn’t think, right down the hall. He just threw away his life.”