2 men shot at crowded West Oak Lane rec center

Posted: July 18, 2014

GREGORY EL wasn't surprised to hear that two people had been shot at the Simons Rec Center - a lot has changed at the West Oak Lane playground since he was a teen playing ball on its basketball courts.

"This whole neighborhood has gone downhill," said El, 43, who lives not far from the rec center, on Walnut Lane near Woolston Street.

"Kids used to come here to play. Now they just hang out and get into trouble," he said, adding that fights and arguments are common at the summertime hangout spot. "It's terrible."

Just before 5 p.m., two young men were shot on the steps of the rec center, Chief Inspector Scott Small said.

One victim, 18, was hit in the groin and rushed to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he remained last night in critical condition, Small said.

The other man, 19, was hit in his right thigh, and remained in stable condition at Einstein last night.

Small said it's not clear what sparked the shooting, which took place as dozens of kids and teens played on the center's basketball court and football field.

"This is a really well-kept rec center, and it's a nice summer afternoon, so a lot of kids were attracted to the area," Small said.

Witnesses told investigators that two men were seen leaving the scene in separate directions, Small said.

Ballistic evidence from the scene showed that 11 shots were fired from two semiautomatic handguns.

No arrests had been made as of last night, Small said.

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