Smoke Shop in Harlem Credit: Tandy Lau photo

Messiah Nantwi, 21, was arrested on Tue. April 11, and charged with 2 counts of murder, plus one count of criminal possession of a weapon, for 2 successive Harlem murders during Easter weekend.  He was out on bail following a February 2021 shootout with police in The Bronx.

Police say on Saturday April 8, at approximately 4:45 PM. Nantwi shot Jaylen Duncan, a 19-year-old male from 8 West 118th St. Harlem, in the head in the vicinity of Madison Ave and 132nd St., who was later declared dead at Harlem Hospital.  They did not reveal what caused the shooting.

Then the following day at approximately 7:48PM, inside a smoke shop at 304 Malcolm X Blvd., 125-126 Sts., he allegedly shot Brandon Brunson, 36, visiting from East New York, Brooklyn, after a brief dispute.

   Store surveillance video footage captured Sunday’s entire episode, but without audio, was retrieved by police.  It shows several people are inside the store, while Nantwi – donning a dark jacket with an FDNY logo and a backwards black baseball cap, talking to a man, later identified as Mr. Brunson, in a tan jacket.  Then as Brunson turns around to depart, he gets shot in the head in cowardly fashion and collapses to the floor, and other patrons run out the store.  Nantwi starts to leave, then suddenly stops and shoots his victim once more in the head, then reaches into Brunson’s pocket.

Nantwu fled the scene on foot northbound toward 126th St. The victim was transported to NYC Health and Hospitals/Harlem where he was pronounced deceased.

Investigators said Brunson had been employed at the nearby Mount Morris Plaza Senior Housing for several years and was planning to take his 6-year-old nephew on an Easter egg hunt.

Nantwi [2333 5th Ave. New York, NY] was out on bail since April 2021 following a shootout with police in the Bronx earlier that Feb. where he was severely injured and charged with first- and second-degree attempted murder, three counts of menacing a police officer, criminal use and possession of a firearm, resisting arrest and possession of graffiti instruments.

Reportedly, he and another male were seen at Elton Ave. and East 153rd St. painting graffiti when a police sergeant –Darren Earl, and officers Malik Underwood and Erick Reyes, approached them and a shootout ensued.  Police unloaded 31 rounds, striking Nantwi several times. They were not injured. 

“You shot at a cop; you supposedly killed someone, why was this person not in jail?” Mr. Brunson’s mother, Gwendolyn Brunson, asked during a recent media report. “It blows my mind.”

Initially he received a $500,000 BAIL, which the judge later reduced to $300,000 after his indictment, and Nantwi posted 10% [$30,000 cash] and was released that April. 

Nantwi’s lawyer in the Bronx case declined to comment.

“This perp shot at a cop and then he was released only to commit two homicides,” retired NYPD detective and current professor at John Jay College, Michael Alcazarm noted. “The system failed the City of New York.  This person shot at police. To me, that’s, like, a no-brainer. He should have stayed in jail.”

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