Thursday, August 7, 2008

Shot teenager caught in the crossfire of rival gangs at a shop was a 'decent hardworking young man'

An innocent teenager has been shot dead in a fight between rival gangs in front of horrified members of his family.

College student Ryan Bravo, 18, was in a small supermarket with his two brothers and a cousin when they were caught up in the shoot-out.

The boys, who had been visiting family and were on their way home, had just walked into the Costcutter store in Walworth, south London, when two men barged in behind them to get away from a gang chasing them.

A group of youths on mopeds drove on to the pavement and pulled up outside. They fired three or four shots into the shop as terrified shoppers fled, and one of the bullets hit Ryan in the back.

The business studies student collapsed and his brothers and cousin frantically tried to keep him alive.

Paramedics arrived on the scene within five minutes but were unable to save him.

Officers arrested a 19-year-old near the scene. It is thought he was carrying a gun. They are hunting up to five more male suspects who rode away on three mopeds.

Ryan is the 22nd teenager to be murdered in London this year. His death bears chilling echoes of the killing of Polish care worker Magda Pniewska who was shot dead in crossfire between gangs in south London last October.

Officers from Scotland Yard's Operation Trident, which investigates crime in the black community, are investigating.

Last night distraught mother Elfrida Kiffin described Ryan, from Brixton, as 'a decent, hardworking young man and loving son'.

She said in a statement: 'I urge anyone that knows or saw anything to come forward and assist officers from Operation Trident in their efforts to trace witnesses to this cold-blooded and reckless act.'

It is thought Ryan held down a part-time job while studying at college and living with his mother. His father is believed to live in Nottingham.

Ryan's tearful girlfriend, who would not give her name, said: 'He was a really great guy, he was a college student studying business. He was completely innocent.'

A local resident said: 'He was a good boy. I didn't ever know him to get into any trouble.

'My son and him were always talking and laughing together. As my son would say, he was a gentleman – he didn't have any "street name" or anything like that.'

Detectives believe the intended victims were being chased by the gang on mopeds and fled into the Costcutter shop at about 9.40pm on Wednesday night.

Residents said the area is blighted by gangs who fight bitter 'postcode' wars with each other.

Detective Superintendent Gary Richardson said: 'Ryan was completely innocent and we believe he was not the intended target but was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

'He was a good kid and was definitely not involved in gangs. It is absolutely tragic for him to get caught up in something that is nothing to do with him.'

Police appealed for anyone who was in or near Costcutter at the time of the shooting to contact police, saying they could call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 if they wanted to remain anonymous.

Investigators were probing whether the murder was linked to a shooting in nearby Lambeth earlier on Wednesday when a youth was hit in the leg.

A witness who was in Costcutter spoke of his terror. The Albanian man said: 'I was buying cigarettes and four or five guys ran in.

'I didn't think anything bad was going to happen because I thought they were joking and laughing.

'But then I heard shots, three or four. I've never seen anyone get shot before. It was like something out of a film.

'It was all over in about seven seconds. I put all my stuff down and ran out of the shop. A hysterical lady ran out after me.

'Two people ran out, got on mopeds and drove away. I'm lucky to be alive.'

Matn Milani, who used to run another Costcutter store nearby, said: 'These gangs are looking for trouble at night and they end up in places that are open.

'I was threatened with a gun twice and I was very scared. Just recently there was another kid shot outside a takeaway up the road, and there are shootings and muggings and stabbings happening almost every day.'


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