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Tragic case of mistaken identity leads to death of Brooklyn youth mentor in revenge shooting

A Brooklyn man who dedicated his life to mentoring troubled youth was gunned down in a tragic case of mistaken identity when a gunman mistook his car for a similar vehicle used in a carjacking earlier that evening, police officials said.

Shaquary Bryant, 28, was driving to his regular overnight shift mentoring at a residence for teens in trouble with the law on Jan. 24 around 11:25 p.m. when he was shot in the chest behind the wheel of his blue Honda Accord in Brownsville.

“My son was shot for nothing,” Bryant’s father, Brian Cook, told the New York Daily News. “It’s very, very hurtful. He died for no reason. He was going to work. It’s just terrible.”

The trouble began earlier in the night when a group of thieves brazenly carjacked a Mercedes parked near a group of men standing on Herkimer Street near Rockaway Avenue, said police.

“We have a group of males hanging out. … A male joins the group in a brand-new Mercedes,” said NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny. “A black Honda pulls up and blocks the Mercedes in.”

The 35-year-old man inside the Mercedes was sleeping. Two male suspects opened a door to the car and displayed a gun. “Get out of the car,” one of them said, according to police.

“The robbery goes down, and they steal the Mercedes,” Kenny said.

The car thieves sped off in two vehicles, the stolen Mercedes and the black Honda they arrived in, Kenny said.

Bryant, heading to work in a blue Honda Accord, pulled up to the same intersection one minute after the thieves sped off, said police.

Believing Bryant’s Honda to be the one involved in the car heist, someone in the group that had been robbed pulled a gun and opened fire on Bryant from a distance, striking him three times through his car door, cops said.

“One hundred percent an innocent bystander here,” Kenny said of Bryant.

When cops arrived they found Bryant half out of the front driver’s seat of the 2018 Honda Accord with North Carolina plates. It looked like he was trying to get out of the vehicle to find help and lost consciousness, an NYPD official said. He was rushed to Brookdale University Hospital but couldn’t be saved.

Cook, 57, said he had mixed emotions upon learning his son’s slaying was a result of mistaken identity.

“It gives me some peace knowing that my son wasn’t involved in anything negative. That it was an error,” the distraught father said. “It doesn’t bring my child back. I want whoever is responsible for his demise to be captured and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

No arrests have been made in the killing, cops said.

When asked what he would say to the gunman, Cook replied, “Please turn yourself in and repent. Repent for your actions. You have affected my entire family. He has a daughter, a father, a stepmother, brothers and sisters who are hurting because of this mistake.”

Bryant, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, worked as a youth development counselor for Good Shepard Services, at the Barbara Blum Residence for troubled youth in East New York since 2019.

“He had conversations with them, took them out in the field, made sure they were on task for school work,” his sister Najah Kingwood previously told the Daily News. “Making sure that if they were knuckleheads they were set on a straight road. … He helped keep them on the right path.”

Cook, who has had a long career in youth counseling, said Bryant looked up to him and ultimately followed in his footsteps.

“When I looked at him, I saw myself. He wanted to be like his father, and that’s what he did. Those kids loved him. He dedicated his life,” Cook said. “He was proud to be an example to the youth.”

Bryant worked an overnight shift to free up his days to take care of his 5-year-old daughter, Zahara, said Cook.

“If you saw him, he was with his daughter,” Bryant’s stepfather, Densford Peters previously said.

The tot struggled with her father’s absence at her recent cheerleading dance contest where she won first place, Cook said.

“She’s not doing well. One of the things she said that broke my heart was, ‘Everyone is here except my daddy,'” Cook said.

“It’s difficult for me every day. I just want to heal, and I guess that comes with time,” the father said.

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(With Liam Quigley and Colin Mixson)

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