Wilbert Grier, who was caught in the crossfire between two rival groups in East Harlem Tuesday, decided to put the lives of children before his own. The army veteran, who was an innocent bystander of the erupting gun violence, was shot in the torso while shielding kids from gunfire.
According to reports, the 59-year-old army veteran was hit in the upper torso by a stray bullet when rival groups of young men shot at each other, neglecting the innocent lives of the passersby. Wilbert Grier was injured during the altercation, which occurred near a deli on Fifth Avenue and East 188th Street. But he decided to continue his brave efforts and shield children who were playing near the street.
Despite the serious wound, Grier explained that “the Adrenaline kicked in” and that his first instinct was to protect the small children from those deadly bullets. Wilbert Grier’s army training came in handy, which he used to maneuver himself and the children into the nearby deli. They avoided further gunfire, which continued to fly for several moments.
“We had to shield the kids because they were shooting this way,” Grier recalled of the incident. “We had kids playing [outside] and then we had kids in the store.” The army veteran’s quick action likely saved those children’s lives, despite the risk to his own life.
“I knew I was hit, but I knew that I might have to take another one, for the kids,” Grier admitted, explaining that he would have taken more bullets if it meant saving lives. After finding safety in the deli, Grier and a deli worker locked the doors and waited out the turmoil outside.
After the streets cleared, Wilbert Grier was taken to Harlem Hospital. He was treated for his bullet wound and is expected to recover. He showed off his wound from the street brawl to news reporters, who captured images of the bloody hole just under his chest. The bullet landed close to his heart and a few inches higher Wilbert Grier made not have survived.
Police have not commented on whether the incident was gang-related. Authorities did arrest 18-year-old Jabari Albright on Wednesday in connection with the Harlem shooting. Albright has been charged with attempted murder. His bail has not been set.
Security cameras caught video of the wild altercation. The footage shows one of the gunmen opening fire while on the sidewalk nearby, aiming his weapon across the street. Behind the shooter, a group of people fled down the street, as gunfire rang out.
The incident, which occurred at around 6:10 p.m., was a scary moment for Wilbert Grier, who says he was “pretty shaken up” by it. He claims he is “still shaken up from the impact” of the bullet, but says he has experience in that field.
“We were in Desert Storm,” Grier told a reporter, referencing the deli owner who acted alongside Grier’s heroics. According to the army veteran, they were “in the same platoon.”
“So we started searching each other for bullet holes,” Grier recalls of his moments in the deli, after ushering kids to safety. “While the bullets were firing, we had to stand in front o the kids until they scrambled to safety.”
Gun violence is on the rise with more than 945 shooting victims so far this year. In a meet-and-greet on Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo met with the Democratic mayoral candidate, Eric Adams. The two politicians discussed their plans for curbing the surge and protecting the city of New York.
After the meeting, Cuomo said that “Eric and I come from the same political philosophy,” and explained that he thinks “Eric Adams and I are going to work well together.”