Updated 07/05/2012 10:54 PM
Harlem College Graduate Shot During Brief Visit Home
A day after the mother of a large Harlem family lost her studious son to gun violence, the grieving woman was offering Thursday her own $5,000 reward for whoever can help put her son's murderer behind bars. NY1's Natasha Ghoneim filed the following report.
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A day after Matt Shaw was shot dead in Harlem, his mother, Paula Shaw-Leary, often slipped into the present tense when talking about her son.
"He's never in trouble. He loves to play basketball. He played well," said Shaw-Leary. "He wanted to play in the NBA but the problem was he wanted to concentrate on his studies, get that out of the way and concentrate on sports."
The graduate school-bound 21-year-old was not even supposed to be spending the summer at home in Harlem. He had just graduated with a finance degree from Le Moyne College in Syracuse.
Shaw-Leary, an overprotective mother of seven, sent her son to Atlanta until his master's program at SUNY-Albany began in August.
"I didn't want him around this neighborhood in the summertime. It's hot, you know. He was there, but he wanted to come home to celebrate the Fourth of July," said Shaw-Leary.
Instead, Shaw was shot to death just before midnight on the holiday he did not want to celebrate away from home.
Police arrived at 128th Street and Lexington Avenue and found he had been hit in the torso. He later died at Harlem Hospital.
Shaw's mother said she spoke to him at home minutes before his killing to ensure he had made his curfew.
"I was happy. Yes, he's in the house, so I could not worry now. He's safe," she said.
Shaw-Leary does not know what happened after they hung up, but she said she knows there is no way her son was the intended target. She said he was walking to or from the store with two friends.
"Those two disappeared," said Shaw-Leary.
As police continued their investigation Thursday, Shaw's mother offered an independent $5,000 reward for any information that puts her son's killer behind bars.
"I want an arrest and I can up it, I'll up it, because I need the person to be found and caught and punished," she said.
In Shaw's neighborhood, the promising student's death was a shared loss.
"This has to stop in our community. It starts, the parents have to get out here and start fighting for what's right in the eyes of our children," said Sheila Johnson, a neighbor.
Shaw-Leary donated her son's organs, so that his death would, in her words, "not be in vain."
Le Moyne College held a service in its chapel in Shaw's honor Thursday night.
The school issued a statement Thursday saying, "We remember the goodness in this fine young man whose life has been tragically cut short by a senseless act of violence."
Anyone with information on the case should contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS, or text CRIMES and then enter TIP577, or visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.