Two people shot outside home of N.Y. gubernatorial candidate who has focused on crime

Two teenagers were shot Sunday outside the Long Island home of Rep. Lee Zeldin (R), who has sought to make fighting crime a central issue in his long-shot campaign for New York governor against the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The teenagers were walking down the street when a person in a passing vehicle fired multiple shots at them, the Suffolk County Police Department said in a statement. The teens “were struck and attempted to hide in the yard,” the police said. A third teenager who had been walking with them fled, according to the statement.

The two victims, both 17, were being treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, police said. The police did not state a cause for the shooting but said investigators “do not believe there is any connection” to Zeldin’s work or campaign. As of Monday afternoon, no arrests had been made, police said.

Zeldin said his two 16-year-old daughters were home when the shooting began. They heard the gunshots, ran upstairs and “locked themselves in the bathroom,” he wrote in a statement Sunday afternoon. One daughter called 911, and the other called Zeldin and his wife, who were driving home from a parade in the Bronx, he said.

On Sunday evening, Zeldin told reporters, “I’m standing in front of crime scene tape in front of my own house,” and, “You can’t get me more outraged than right now.”

On Monday, Zeldin told Fox Business Network that “one of the bullets landed about 30 feet” from where his daughters were sitting in the kitchen. “I don’t know anything about the shooters,” he said. “I don’t know who shot these two people. I don’t know what the motive was.”

It is the second violent episode to unfold as the four-term congressman campaigns for governor. In July, a man was arrested for attempting to stab Zeldin during a campaign event. The suspect, a military veteran, told police he had been drinking before the episode.

Zeldin has made crime and public safety a key issue in his uphill campaign against Hochul, who was elevated to the governor’s office after then-governor Andrew M. Cuomo abruptly resigned last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct and inaccurate reporting of covid-19 deaths at nursing homes.

Public polling shows Hochul with a double-digit lead over Zeldin, whose party has not won statewide office in New York in two decades. But the shooting has renewed Zeldin’s call to make fighting crime the defining issue of the campaign.

“We do need to roll back pro-criminal laws up in Albany,” Zeldin told Fox Business Network on Monday, referring to changes in bail law recently enacted in New York that Republicans say have shortened the amount of time a violent suspect is held in custody. “We have to take back our streets. This is something that motivated me to get into this race in the first place.”

Zeldin’s tough-on-crime message has also been fueled by headline-grabbing violence, including the fatal stabbing of an emergency service worker in Queens two weeks ago and the shooting death of a mother of three in Buffalo last week. New York Mayor Eric Adams (D), a former police captain, has also urged lawmakers to help bring down crime in New York.

Hochul, for her part, has responded to such calls with action from Albany. In September, she announced that the state would send $20 million to local law enforcement. That month, she also highlighted her plan to install cameras on each subway car in the city.

In New York City, murders have declined, but other major crimes — including rapes, robberies, felony assaults, burglaries, grand larcenies and car thefts — have increased in the first nine months of the year compared with a year ago, according to data from the New York Police Department. But the number of shooting incidents and victims during that period is down more than 12 percent.

In Suffolk County, the number of shooting incidents reported for the first eight months of the year is down about 11 percent compared with a year ago, according to data released in September by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. The number of people shot during that period is down nearly 22 percent, according to the division.

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