September 18, 2023
Watch the video here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9S5Ny_ei6k
Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. We just felt that it was urgent and needed, that this story could not be just another day in our city. Four babies — four babies — and whomever is a parent, you had to see that picture of that young baby. The loss of his life to just reckless and careless and total disregard for those children. And I want to, number one, to thank the first responders, the EMS workers who identified the symptoms that the children were going through. I want to thank the Police Department for their thorough investigation and immediately bringing this case to as much of a closure as possible. And I wanted to thank just our health care professionals.
And we are going to just elevate to families on what we're dealing with this. This is not because I mistakenly leave marijuana around the house or mistakenly leave cocaine around the house. This substance is so dangerous. Just a small amount, that little corner right there. The size of a penny. That little corner you see here is enough to kill an adult. That little corner. So, if you're bringing fentanyl in your home, land it on the countertop, land it on a place where your child sleeps, land it near a crib, having it on your clothing… That little piece, that little corner about the size, less than the size of a fingernail, a tenth of the size of a fingernail, can kill an adult, so imagine what it could do to a child.
You are irresponsible as an adult if you have this inside your home. This is not the drugs of yesteryear, this is so dangerous. And just to think that we have to introduce into the lives of our children Narcan. You have to carry around Narcan. We've probably saved the lives of three of those children because of Narcan, because those first responders identified the symptoms of what these children were experiencing. What are we doing? What are we doing as a society to our children? This was probably one of the worst days I've had of going up to the Bronx, sitting down with those parents, losing their babies like this. They dropped the babies off to a daycare center hoping that their children would be protected by the caregivers.
And then speaking with the father yesterday, like what do you say! What do you say? This is just total madness that we lost a child to this dangerous substance, and we almost lost three. We almost lost four children to this dangerous substance. There needs to be a full national assault on this drug entering our city. This is a new drug. This is not a new type of battle, and people need to understand this. This is not the marijuana on your tabletop, this is a dangerous drug that a small amount like this can kill an adult. So, if you are handling this and you have it on your hands, you have it on your clothing and then you pick up your child, you're exposing them to the potential of this danger.
And that's why we are here today. We're not going to allow this incident to take place and ignore this as just another day and another tragedy in the city. It's not acceptable. This is about everyone up here, we're all parents. We're all parents. And you cannot be a parent and not be angry of what happened to those four babies. I am. I am. Commissioner.
Police Commissioner Edward Caban: Good evening. As the mayor said, we're here to provide some updates about two current investigations both taking place in the Bronx. The first, along with our partners, the Bronx DA's office, the Southern District, the New York division of the DA and others, we are one step closer to getting justice for the baby so tragically and senselessly killed on Friday in the 52 Precinct; and as we know, two other babies were hurt in the same incident. And now two arrests have been made, charges will be filed, and people will be held accountable.
What happened three days ago in the daycare center is truly unimaginable. It's a nightmare that these families will never wake up from. But believe me, the NYPD will never rest in our pursuit of anyone who puts our children in harm's way. The dangers of fentanyl cannot be overstated. This poison is extremely deadly, and if you traffic in it you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. No parent should ever have to go through something like this, and we will continue to work 24/7 to make sure there are meaningful consequences for all these horrific crimes.
The second case today relates to recent gang‑related shooting in the Bronx 40 Precinct. Two innocent bystanders were shot in that incident, and a 71‑year‑old woman was killed. The suspect, whose intended targets were members of a rival gang, were quickly identified by patrol officers in the 40 Precinct through video footage and still photos. And early this morning, less than 96 hours after the shooting, an arrest was made. As the criminal justice system takes its course, the message from our police department is clear: if you carry an illegal firearm, if you recklessly pulled the trigger, if you harm anyone in our city, the NYPD will find you. We will arrest you, and you will be held accountable.
Gang violence — or any type of violence, for that matter — will never be tolerated. Our cops will never stop fighting for the people we serve. And I want to commend all the investigators and our partners in the Regional Fugitive Task Force for their fast, effective work in this case. Now I'll turn it over to our chief of Detectives, Chief Joe Kenny.
Chief Joseph Kenny, Detectives, Police Department: Good evening. I'm going to give you an update on these two cases; and then when I'm done, the Health commissioner will give us some more comments about fentanyl. I'm Chief of Detectives, Joe Kenny. I'm going to give you two updates on recent homicides that have occurred in the Bronx. On Friday, September 15th, at 2:41 p.m., NYPD and FDNY EMS personnel responded to 2707 Morris Avenue to a 911 call of unconscious children. This location is a licensed daycare center.
The children, ages one, two and eight months old, were found to be unresponsive at the scene. They seemed to be demonstrating an exposure to an opioid. Quick thinking FDNY EMS personnel administered Narcan to these three children and removed them to Montefiore Hospital. Unfortunately, the one‑year‑old did not survive and died at the hospital. NYPD detectives later learned that an additional child, only two years old, had been removed from the same location at 12:15 that afternoon by his mother. This child also began to exhibit symptoms of opioid exposure. The child was brought to Bronx Lebanon Hospital where hospital staff quickly administered Narcan saving that child's life.
A search warrant was executed by members of the 52 Precinct Detective Squad and members of the DEA at this location, the daycare center. There, we discovered a kilogram of fentanyl in an area that was used to give the children naps: it was laid underneath a mat where the children had been sleeping earlier. Additionally, we found three kilo presses. This device is commonly used by drug dealers when packaging large quantities of illegal narcotics.
Two arrests have been made in this case: Grei Mendez, female, 36 years old with no prior arrests before this incident. She was acting as the caretaker for this daycare facility. We also locked up Carlisto Brito, male, 41 years old, very similar, zero arrests prior to this incident. Working with the Bronx district attorney's office they have both been charged with murder and attempted murder, depraved indifference. Medical testing came back on all three children, all three children had fentanyl in their systems. Year to date, the NYPD forensic laboratory has tested over 150 pounds of fentanyl.
The second homicide I will update… Excuse me.
Mayor Adams: No, that's not seized.
Chief Kenny: No, that is not seized, that is just tested. This drug is so dangerous that we only test the small, small, minuscule amount to limit the exposure of our lab personnel, that's how dangerous it is. Even wearing the proper PPE — personal protection equipment — we still try to limit as much as possible our exposure to this drug. That's how dangerous it is.
The second homicide I will update occurred on Thursday, September 14th at 12:36 p.m. Two innocent bystanders were shot in the confines of the 40 Precinct in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. Our first unintended victim was identified as a female, 34 years old. She was shot once in her left arm; and thankfully, she was treated at Lincoln Hospital and will survive her injuries.
A second woman was also shot; once again, she was an unintended victim of gun violence. And Enriqueta Rivera, 71‑year‑old woman, was walking on the sidewalk with her shopping cart when she was shot one time in her heart by a bullet that was meant for another, meant for a rival gang member. She was transported to Lincoln Hospital, where unfortunately, she passed away. We have two innocent women, two Bronx residents, two unintended targets, both struck by senseless gunfire.
Members of the 40 Detective Squad and Bronx Homicide responded and were able to quickly identify the perpetrator of this crime. He is Joshua Evans, male, 21 years old. He resides just two blocks from where the shooting took place. He has one prior arrest, and that was for robbery back in 2019.
Evans was located and apprehended by U.S. Marshals and the Regional Fugitive Task Force at 6:30 this morning. He was found hiding at a relative's home located at 263 Rich Avenue in Mount Vernon, New York. Working with the Bronx district attorney's office, he will be charged with murder and attempted murder. Thank you, and I'll introduce the health commissioner.
Commissioner Ashwin Vasan, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: I share the mayor's sentiments that Friday night and Saturday were the worst days of my time as health commissioner to date. I have three small children, seven, 10 and… 10, 7 and 4, and watching the parents go through what they went through was one of the worst days I've experienced in this job or any job. And I've seen people die. I have accompanied people through their end of life in hospital settings, and this is where fentanyl belongs. I remember the first patient I gave fentanyl to, a woman in her forties who had developed metastatic breast cancer who herself was leaving a family behind and needed fentanyl to manage the pain of end stage metastatic disease.
I remember ordering it for the first time and realizing how powerful this substance is, but how much relief it gave to someone suffering from pain unimaginable to most of us. This is where fentanyl belongs. It doesn't belong on our streets and it doesn't belong in our homes. It doesn't belong anywhere that trained clinicians are not. And it doesn't belong in forms like powders and aerosolized liquids. It belongs in syringes, and it belongs in hospitals where they are extremely controlled substances. Fentanyl is exquisitely dangerous. I use the word "exquisitely" because I don't have another word to describe how dangerous this drug is.
And it is in fact completely stressing our entire response to the overdose crisis. People are dying who are dependent on fentanyl, people are dying who are casually using opioids and fentanyl, people are dying who are using non-opioids that are contaminated with fentanyl. We will soon release our overdose data for the City of New York for the calendar year 2022, and we will once again hit a record peak. Year on year, month on month, quarter on quarter, these numbers rise and fentanyl has contributed to the acceleration of this crisis. As I said when I started as Health commissioner, if it wasn't for Covid and then it's followed by Mpox and other infectious crises, this would be the number one issue. Now that we are no longer in the emergency, it should be our number one issue because it's taking too many lives too soon.
A New Yorker dies of an overdose every three hours, and now it's going to be less than that. Eighty percent of overdoses in New York City in 2021 ‑‑ and that's old data ‑‑ involved fentanyl. That number is sure to rise. I cannot stress how dangerous this drug is in its synthetic form, its unexpected form. I also want to emphasize what the Mayor said about Narcan. Narcan saved three babies' lives. We have defibrillators behind every bar, in every business, in every public event. Increasingly, we have epinephrine pens, EpiPens, in public settings. Narcan has to be everywhere. You should be carrying Narcan right now.
I have Narcan right here. These are the Narcan kits distributed by the city. Narcan is now available over the counter. You can go to your pharmacy and get Narcan. You can go to our website and see thousands of pharmacies where we distribute Narcan for free. You can call 311. We do free trainings. Each kit not only has two doses of Narcan to be administered through the nose, but has training and equipment for you to do so safely in the field. Any time you see someone, walking past them, who looks like they might not be conscious, who might not be breathing, who might look more sleepy or tired than usual, think overdose, think opioid intoxication and think fentanyl.
Question: First question is for the health commissioner. So, back on September 6th, this location was specifically searched by the state. Can you tell us what exactly they are looking for and why nothing was found inside this location if there was clearly so many paraphernalia and drug… I guess drugs itself inside this location. Can you tell us what exactly they were looking for and what they found.
Commissioner Vasan: So, my department inspects hundreds if not thousands of these sites every year for their safety on behalf of the state. These are home‑based childcare centers run out of people's homes, and they seek licensure for those sites.
This site was, they applied for a license in January of this year, were inspected initially twice, and a third most recently, a surprise visit on September 6th, as you say. And those visits are there to assess, to verify identity, to assess safety, to look for essential equipment needed to provide basic childcare, to look for things like proper egress and ingress, to look at things like proper ventilation.
So… And we do that time and time again. I'm very sorry, but one of the things my child care inspectors are not trained to do is look for fentanyl, but maybe we need to start. Maybe we need to start. But that has not been a part of our thinking for decades or years in doing this work, and it's served us well because we keep our babies safe through thousands of these centers. There are over, I think there are around 6,000‑plus centers like this, home‑based daycare centers in the City of New York that we inspect on behalf of the state.
So, those are the kinds of things that are looked for in those visits, but this to date has been out of the purview of these inspectors, and the incident that just happened maybe tells us that we need to make it in their purview.
Mayor Adams: And let's be clear on something. The inspectors did not go in and see a drug lab and ignored it. You saw the small amount. So, we do not want to give the perception that they went in, did their job and did the necessary inspections ‑‑ that included a surprise inspection ‑‑ and they did not walk in and said here's a drug lab, let me walk passed it. And so I don't want to give that impression, and we need to be clear on that.
Question: Can someone, maybe yourself or maybe the… Can the police commissioner paint a picture for us about what was happening in that daycare, where were the drugs, where were the children, what was the timeline of events that they...did they eat something and then go down for the nap and not wake up, or what… How much drugs were in there? And what about the caregiver that was there, did she have exposure as well and the other person charged in the case?
Police Commissioner Caban: No, the caregiver did not have any exposure, did not exhibit any symptoms whatsoever. The caregiver actually was one of the people that were arrested in regards to this. The timeline we do have is that the children were dropped off, the place is licensed to have eight children at any given time, they had four. They were… One child was picked up at 12:15. The other children ate at one o'clock, they were given food and then they were put to bed to take a nap in the back room. When I say "back room," it's an area where they had mats laying on the floor, if you can imagine gym mats, they were laid down to take their nap. And then less than, you know, an hour and a half later, they started to exhibit symptoms of the fentanyl.
As far as what we recovered, it was one kilogram of fentanyl was recovered in the vicinity of those mats, and the kilo presses were recovered inside of a closet that was out of plain view.
Question: So, they were actually under the mat that the children were sleeping on?
Police Commissioner Caban: It was in the.. It was near the mats, yes.
Question: Dust from it; or, the actually…
Commissioner Caban: It's just the residue itself. It's, like I said, its' that strong. One grain, two grains of fentanyl could take down a grown man, so even just the residue itself for a small child would cause the death.
Question: And how are the other children doing, do we know, or…
Police Commissioner Caban: They're doing fine.
Question: I just wanted to ask, what's the history of the daycare center in relation to any drugs? Is there a history there of anybody connected to it that has drugs; and to the best of your knowledge at this point, how do you know, if you know, how that kilo of fentanyl actually made it in, and are there anymore.
Police Commissioner Caban: So, we do have some information that might indicate some items were removed from the location after the 911 call was placed. But as far as the history of that location, we have received no 911 calls, no 311 calls, no complaints from the community at all about that location being connected to any drug transactions.
Question: Do you know if Brito was renting a room inside the apartment building in the area where the daycare was supposed to be, at all?
Police Commissioner Caban: He was renting a room that was locked inside of the daycare center itself.
Question: Inside of the daycare center.
Police Commissioner Caban: That's correct.
Question: I'm sorry, was that noticed at all during the inspection, that this guy was just living there? Was it separate from the daycare?
Police Commissioner Caban: The daycare center itself is a living apartment. People live there, and then use it during the day as a daycare center.
Question: To the Health commissioner, what can you say about the inspections that are done for these lease daycare centers and the background checks into the people that are running these centers? And I have a follow up for Mr. Mayor after that.
Commissioner Vasan: The background checks are done on the applicant and the residents of the location where the home‑based childcare center is being applied for. On the license and the application, the people who ran the site were appropriately background checked and cleared and were also listed as the residents of that location. So, anyone else living there was not listed as a resident as a part of the normal background check procedures.
Question: And Mr. Mayor, do you think you'd say what… What would you say to concerned parents after seeing this fall through the cracks in this situation and how you would reassure them of the inspections being properly done in the future.
Mayor Adams: Okay, first, this did not fall through the cracks. The team did their job, the individuals involved had no criminal records. They went in, did several inspections including the surprise inspection — a surprise inspection, that means they showed up without letting anyone know and to do an inspection. They were licensed to have eight children, they had four. They looked to see if the place was clean, the place was clean. They did all of the proper inspections that they're supposed to do. They did their job.
Who did not do their job are the people who were there to protect the children. They did not do their job, they did just the opposite. And that is what's the most frightening aspect of this, because everything appeared normal based on the standards we put in place to make sure children are in a safe environment. We did the inspections, we did the background check, we did the surprise inspections. We did everything we're supposed to do. Part of this relationship is based on trust that those who are taking care of our children are going to do it in a safe manner. They broke that trust, as others have.
And the real message here, again, is for parents, that if you have someone in your home that is dealing with fentanyl, if you're aware of someone in your home that's carrying fentanyl in your home, if you are associated with someone that is dealing with fentanyl, you are endangering everyone in your household.
Question: Chief, is this operation bigger than the three people — the two arrested, the one sought, A and B. Does it appear that this was a drug operation that sought a cover so they opened up a daycare center? Or, did that operations go into effect after the center was opened, perhaps because of the relationship between Brito and the caregiver.
Police Commissioner Caban: The timing of it, Brito comes into the country about a year ago from the Dominican Republic, right around the same time that the site is opened. We're still looking into it. We're working with our federal partners and the DEA, and we're going to be tracking that down. We do have another person of interest that we'd like to speak to that could expand more on what we're looking at more globally than we are l locally.
Question: So, you might be looking at people beyond the third person, in theory.
Police Commissioner Caban: That's correct.
Question: Do they have any idea when the drug presses might have come into the building? When the drug press equipment was brought into the building. Was it prior to the opening of the daycare so it was there; or, was it brought in after the center was open, do they know.
Police Commissioner Caban: Right now, we're still looking through video, looking for what was coming in and out of that apartment. Like I said, we did find video of items leaving the apartment after the incident. As far as pre incident video, we're still looking at that as well, but at this time, we don't have that.