A alleged domestic dispute turned violent in Ozone Park Saturday morning, leading to the shooting death of a 40-year-old woman, whom cops said was gunned down by her husband, in front of their children, leaving an entire neighborhood in shock.
At around 11 a.m. Saturday morning, cops responded to a report of a shooting inside a home at 97-44 104 St. near 101st Avenue.
There, Kevin Canty, 43, a former transit cop, allegedly shot dead his wife, Jessica Canty, in front of their two children. The children, a girl and a boy, then ran from the home in a panic, neighbors say, shouting that their father had shot their mother. Police sources said she suffered multiple gunshot wounds to her torso.
“I heard screaming and thought it was just kids playing at first,” said one of Canty’s neighbors, “Then I heard adults screaming and knew it couldn’t be good. I went outside and the kids were running up the block with my neighbor. They were crying. They were screaming that their mommy had been shot.”
Ben Roumani, who lives in Richmond Hill and was walking on 101st Avenue at the time of the incident, said he saw the children banging on the doors of several cars stopped at the red light at 104th Street and 101st Avenue.
“They were screaming ‘Daddy shot mommy, please help,’” he said. “They looked petrified. It all happened so fast. I wasn’t sure it was real.”
One of Canty’s neighbors took the children to a bodega, the Casablanca Deli on 101st Avenue, where they stayed until police arrived.
“I saw them being taken into an ambulance,” said a nearby resident who came to the scene. “They didn’t seem shaken up, I guess they were in shock.”
The children, who a family friend said were 5 and 8 years old, were taken into protective custody and were to be released to family members.
Jessica Canty and her children were in that same deli shortly before the shooting, according to surveillance video and a worker at the bodega. The worker added that the family were regular customers there.
Immediately after the shooting, cops canvassed the block in armor with shields, searching for Canty. They yelled for residents to go inside their homes and take cover, unsure if the gunman was still on the loose in the area.
“Please stay in your homes and take cover,” a cop shouted to curious residents on 104th Street, who poked their heads out of their front doors. “Please, go back to your homes and stay inside.”
An earlier incident several blocks away where a man was found shot to death in the street led to some concern that a shooter was loose in the neighborhood.
A police helicopter circled low over the scene as cops shut down busy 104th Street — the main southbound thoroughfare between Jamaica Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard — for nearly 12 hours.
At around noon, an hour or so after the shooting occurred, several cop cars raced away from the scene, down 104th Street toward Liberty Avenue.
They were responding to a report that a man was trying to break into a car at Centreville Street and Pitkin Avenue in the Centreville section of Ozone Park, a mile from the scene of the Canty shooting — an area already on high alert over recent car thefts. Police later identified the man as Canty, and they arrested him. A police source said he had told neighbors he thought the car was his and was trying to get inside when the key didn’t work. He was also said to have been disorientated at the time of his arrest.
Canty is facing second-degree murder charges, as well as a charge of criminal possession of a weapon.
The shooting shocked residents of the normally quiet neighborhood, where the last murder occurred in 2011. The crime scene attracted curious onlookers for most of the rest of the day. Churchgoers heading for Easter Vigil services at St. Mary Gate of Heaven, just a few hundred yards from the home where the shooting took place, stopped at the corner of 104th Street and 101st Avenue to take a peek at the scene.
At least two neighbors say they never knew of any problems in Canty’s household.
“They seemed just like normal people,” said one neighbor who lives several houses down from the family. “The mother would come outside and sit with the kids on the stoop in the summer. I never really saw the father.”
Canty had been a transit cop until an injury forced him to retire, according to several police sources. He was lauded in July 2012 for helping save a man who suffered a heart attack at the Union Square subway station.
A friend of the couple, who did not want to be identified, said they had previously lived in Brooklyn and that there had been some trouble in the relationship recently.
“They were a good couple, a fun couple,” the friend said. “Things had gone sour recently I had heard, but I had no idea this would ever happen. If I did, you’d better believe I would have done something.”
Another neighbor, who identified himself only as David, said he had often seen Canty walking around the neighborhood.
“Sometimes he would say hello, but often he looked busy or tired or troubled. I just wouldn’t bother,” he said. “I never thought this was possible.”
A resident who works near the home said she had often seen the victim walking with her kids, who attended PS 62 according to the family’s neighbors.
“She seemed like any normal parent, but always in a rush,” the resident said. “I can’t believe it. You see people, often the same people, walk around the neighborhood every day and it never occurs to you that something like this could happen to one of them.”